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Iranian Scientist Assassinated in Tehran; Nature of His Work Unclear

24 Jul 2011 02:58Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

IRNAAssassinationImage.jpg2:30 a.m., 2 Mordad/July 24 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
Another Iranian scientist has been assassinated. Dariush Rezaei was killed in Tehran, in an attack that also injured his wife. There are contradictory reports on the exact nature of his expertise and the work in which he was involved. (Tabnak released this video.)

IRNA, Iran's official news agency, reports that he was a Ph.D. candidate in electronics and a distinguished scientist who was working with several research centers around the country. IRNA gave his last name as Rezaei-Nejad.

On the other hand, the website of Mohaghegh Ardabili University, lists a Dr. Dariush Rezaei Ochbelagh as an assistant professor. Rezaei Ochbelagh evidently received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 2007 from the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad and his M.S. degree in 1996 in nuclear engineering with a specialty in nuclear reactors from Amir Kabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic). Kaleme, the website that reflects the views of Mir Hossein Mousavi, states it is this scientist who was killed. Rezaei Ochbelagh's list of publications indicates that he has done research in optoelectronics and has published on the subject in international journals.

The hardline website Asr-e Iran reports that Rezaei was assassinated in front of his home, after he and his wife had picked up their infant daughter from a daycare. According to an eyewitness, they were inside their car when two assassins that were riding a motorcycle approached them and killed Rezaei. At least five bullets were fired according to the forensic evidence, one of which entered his body through the neck. It took at least 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive to take the injured to a hospital. A neighbor said that in Rezaei's car there was an insurance card indicating that he had medical insurance with the armed forces.

Fars, the news agency run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, quotes Majid Ghasemi, the chancellor of Khajeh Nasir Toosi University in Tehran, as saying that Rezaei-Nejad was a M.S. student of electrical engineering at the university with specialty in power engineering. Ghasemi said that he knows nothing about Rezaei's involvement in Iran's nuclear program. In another dispatch, Fars asserts that identifying the murdered scientist as a nuclear researcher is incorrect.

Mashregh News, the hardline website linked with security forces, reports that Dariush Rezaei-Nejad was a professor of electronics at Khajeh Nasir Toosi in Tehran, but had no links with Iran's nuclear program. Mashregh News also quotes other hardline websites that deny Rezaei was even a researcher, but merely a graduate student that was working toward his degree in a joint program between his university and the University of Hanover in Germany.

Mehr, the news agency run by the Organization for Islamic Propaganda, describes Rezaei only as a "scientist of our nation."

Ayandeh News, the website that is close to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, reports that Dariush Rezaei Nejad was a Ph.D. student at Malek-e Ashtar University, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Defense, and was doing his thesis on nuclear-related problems. It points to an abstract online of a research article authored by Dariush Rezaei-Nejad that appears to concern nuclear-related issues. According to Ayandeh, Rezaei's wife was also "severely injured."

Safar-Ali Baratlou, deputy governor-general for political affairs of Tehran province, governor-general told ILNA, the Iran Labor News Agency, that the question of whether the murdered person was involved in Iran's nuclear program is still under investigation, and is not yet clear.

ISNA, the Iranian Students' News Agency, reports that Rezaei was a "university professor in Tehran," but that no university or research center "has so far confirmed that Rezaei was working with them." According to ISNA, his wife's injuries are minor, as opposed to the "severe injuries" reported by other news agencies and websites.

After the killing of Dr. Majid Shahriari, a prominent academic and expert on nuclear physics, and the failed attempt on the life of Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi, who is now the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, the latest assassination may represent one more in a chain of murders, presumably committed by foreign agents. Another scientist, Professor Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, was also assassinated in January 2010, but it is widely believed by supporters of the Green Movement that he was killed by Iran's own security or intelligence agents.

According to Alef, the website published by Majles deputy Ahmad Tavakoli, a nuclear scientist whom it identified as "Dr. Boronzi, a researcher with the Rouyan Institute" was assassinated in the same location where Rezaei was reported murdered.

The apparent confusion about who the assassinated person was and what he was doing may be intentional. The hardliners and the Ministry of Intelligence have been accused of preoccupying themselves with the detention and repression of the opposition, while foreign agents penetrate the country and assassinate Iran's leading scientists. There may thus be motivation to deliberately confuse or conceal the actual nature of the work in which the latest assassination victim was involved.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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