Ex-Hostages Say Iran Leader-Elect a Captor
Ex-Hostages Say Iran Leader-Elect a Captor
Thursday June 30, 2005 4:31 AM
By RUSS BYNUM
Associated Press Writer
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - A quarter-century after they were
taken captive in Iran, five former American hostages
say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day
ordeal in the bearded face of Iran's new
Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on
television dredged up 25-year-old memories that
prompted four of the former hostages to exchange
e-mails. And those four realized they shared the same
conclusion - the firm belief that President-elect
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their Iranian
``This is the guy. There's no question about it,''
said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army
colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Ga. ``You could make
him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot
suit and I'd still spot him.''
Scott and former hostages David Roeder, William J.
Daugherty and Don A. Sharer told The Associated Press
on Wednesday they have no doubt Ahmadinejad, 49, was
one of the hostage-takers. A fifth ex-hostage, Kevin
Hermening, said he reached the same conclusion after
looking at photos.
Not everyone agrees. Former hostage and retired Air
Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer said he doesn't
recognize Ahmadinejad, by face or name, as one of his
Several former students among the hostage-takers also
said Ahmadinejad did not participate. And a close aide
to Ahmadinejad denied the president-elect took part in
the seizure of the embassy or in holding Americans
Militant students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on
Nov. 4, 1979, and held 52 Americans hostage for 444
days to protest Washington's refusal to hand over the
U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for trial. The
shah fled Iran earlier that year after he was
overthrown by the Islamic Revolution.
The aide, Meisan Rowhani, told the AP from Tehran that
Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings
if he had a role in the hostage taking. Rowhani said
he replied, ``No. I believed that if we do that the
world will swallow us.''
Another former hostage, Paul Lewis, said he thought
Ahmadinejad looked vaguely familiar when he saw a
picture of him on the news last week, but the former
Marine embassy guard said he could not be certain.
``My memories were more of the gun barrel, not the
people behind it,'' said Lewis, who lives in the
central Illinois town of Sidney.
Scott and Roeder both said they were sure Ahmadinejad
was present while they were interrogated.
``I can absolutely guarantee you he was not only one
of the hostage-takers, he was present at my personal
interrogation,'' Roeder said in an interview from his
home in Pinehurst, N.C.
Daugherty, who worked for the CIA in Iran and now
lives in Savannah, said a man he's convinced was
Ahmadinejad was among a group of ringleaders escorting
a Vatican representative during a visit in the early
days of the hostage crisis.
``It's impossible to forget a guy like that,''
Daugherty said. ``Clearly the way he acted, the fact
he gave orders, that he was older, most certainly he
was one of the ringleaders.''
Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran, was
declared winner Wednesday of Iran's presidential
runoff election, defeating one of Iran's best-known
statesmen, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani. The stunning
upset put conservatives firmly in control of all
branches of power in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Scott, Roeder, Daugherty and Sharer said they have
been exchanging e-mails since seeing Ahmadinejad
emerge as a serious contender in Iran's elections.
``He was extremely cruel,'' said Sharer, of Bedford,
Ind. ``He's one of the hard-liners. So that tells you
where their government's going to stand for the next
four to five years.''
After seeing recent newspaper photos, Sharer said, ``I
don't have any doubts'' that Ahmadinejad was a
A memory expert cautioned that people who discuss
their recollections can influence one another in
reinforcing false memories. Also, it's harder to
identify from memory someone of a different race or
ethnicity, said psychologist Elizabeth Loftus of the
University of California, Irvine.
``Twenty-five years is an awfully long time,'' Loftus
said. ``Of course we can't say this is false, but
these things can lead people down the path of having a
Schaefer, of Peoria, Ariz., didn't recognize
Ahmadinejad and said allegations that he had been a
hostage-taker don't concern him as much as knowing
hard-liners are back in power in Iran.
Scott gave a detailed account of the man he recalled
as Ahmadinejad, saying he appeared to be a security
chief among the hostage-takers.
``He kind of stayed in the background most of the
time,'' Scott said. ``But he was in on some of the
interrogations. And he was in on my interrogation at
the time they were working me over.''
Scott also recalled an incident while he was held in
the Evin prison in north Tehran in the summer of 1980.
One of the guards, whom Scott called Akbar, would
sometimes let Scott and Sharer out to walk the narrow,
20-foot hallway outside their cells, he said. One day,
Scott said, the man he believes was Ahmadinejad saw
them walking and chastised the guard.
``He was the security chief, supposedly,'' Scott said.
``When he found out Akbar had let us out of our cells
at all, he chewed out Akbar. I speak Farsi. He said,
`These guys are dogs they're pigs, they're animals.
They don't deserve to be let out of their cells.'''
Scott recalled responding to the man's stare by openly
cursing his captor in Farsi. ``He looked a little
flustered like he didn't know what to do. He just
Roeder said he's sure Ahmadinejad was present during
one of his interrogations when the hostage-takers
threatened to kidnap his son in the U.S. and ``start
sending pieces - toes and fingers of my son - to my
``It was almost like he was checking on the
interrogation techniques they were using in a sort of
adviser capacity,'' Roeder said.
Hermening, of Mosinee, Wis., the youngest of the
hostages, said that after he looked at photos and did
research on the Internet, he came to the conclusion
that Ahmadinejad was one of his questioners.
Hermening had been Marine guard at the embassy, and he
recalled the man he believes was Ahmadinejad asking
him for the combination to a safe.
``His English would have been fairly strong. I
couldn't say that about all the guards,'' Hermening
said. ``I remember that he was certainly direct,
threatening, very unfriendly.''
Rowhani, the aide to Ahmadinejad, said Ahmadinejad
said during the recent meeting that he stopped
opposing the embassy seizure after the revolution's
leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, expressed support
for it. But the president-elect said he never took
``Definitely he was not among the students who took
part in the seizure,'' said Abbas Abdi, the leader of
the hostage-takers. Abdi has since become a leading
supporter of reform and sharply opposed Ahmadinejad.
``He was not part of us. He played no role in the
seizure, let alone being responsible for security''
for the students.
Another of the hostage-takers, Bijan Abidi, said
Ahmadinejad ``was not involved. There was no one by
that name among the students who took part in the U.S.
Associated Press writers Aaron Beard in Raleigh, N.C.,
Amanda Keim in Phoenix, Deanna Wrenn in Indianapolis,
Robert Imrie in Wausau, Wis., and Anna Johnson in
Chicago contributed to this report.