Reuters: At least four Americans held hostage in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran said on Thursday they recognized Iran’s president-elect as one of the ringleaders from the crisis, a claim denied in Tehran. In interviews with U.S. television networks, retired Navy Capt. Donald Sharer and Bill Daugherty, said they were convinced Iran’s ultra-conservative President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one of their Iranian captors. Reuters
WASHINGTON – At least four Americans held hostage in the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran said on Thursday they recognized Iran’s president-elect as one of the ringleaders from the crisis, a claim denied in Tehran.
In interviews with U.S. television networks, retired Navy Capt. Donald Sharer and Bill Daugherty, said they were convinced Iran’s ultra-conservative President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one of their Iranian captors.
“He wasn’t a very nice fellow at the time. He called us pigs and dogs. He’s very hard-line, he’s a guy we are not going to get along with,” said Sharer in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” show.
Daugherty said he also had “no doubts at all” that Ahmadinejad was one of his hostage-takers.
“When your country is being humiliated and being embarrassed, the individuals that do that really stick in your mind. You don’t forget people who do things like that to you and your family and your country,” said Daugherty.
In Iran, two leading figures in the seizure of the U.S. Embassy denied Ahmadinejad took part in the hostage drama which led Washington to break ties with Tehran.
“Ahmadinejad was not among those who occupied the American Embassy after the revolution,” said Abbas Abdi, who helped to orchestrate the raid on the embassy and the seizure of its staff after the Islamic revolution.
Mohsen Mirdamadi, another ringleader of the hostage-taking drama in Tehran, rejected the reports.
“I deny such reports. Ahmadinejad was not a member of the radical students’ group who seized the embassy,” said Mirdamadi, a former lawmaker.
The young militants involved in the embassy takeover have followed different career paths in the past 25 years. Some were appointed to government jobs or elected to parliament. Some turned into radical reformers and challenged the ruling Shi’ite clerics, and a number of them, including Abdi, have spent several years in prison.
Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days. Washington severed ties with Tehran in 1980 and has branded Iran as part of an “axis of evil” for allegedly pursuing nuclear arms and sponsoring terrorism. Iran denies the charges.
Asked to comment on denials from Iran, Sharer told NBC’s “Today” show he remembered the new president as one of the “cruel” ringleaders.
“All I can say is I remember the fellow being very cruel-like, stern, a very narrow beady-eyed character. I can’t comment on what they are saying politically now. They are probably trying to cover their tracks and make the rest of the world think he was not involved,” said Sharer.
Another ex-hostage, retired Army Col. Charles Scott, 73, told The Washington Times the president-elect was one of two or three top leaders involved in the hostage crisis.
“As soon as I saw his picture in the paper, I knew that was the bastard,” said Scott, of Jonesboro, Georgia. “The new president of Iran is a terrorist.”
Kevin Hermening of Mosinee, Wisconsin, a 20-year-old Marine security guard when the embassy was stormed, told the paper he had contact with Ahmadinejad right after the takeover.
“He was involved in interrogating me the day we were taken captive,” Hermening was quoted as saying. He said interrogators sought the combinations for “safes and other things that were locked.”
Ahmadinejad, who won Iran’s presidential election by a landslide last week, was a 23-year-old university student at the time of the takeover in November 1979 and was a founding member of the radical student group that organized the storming of the U.S. Embassy compound, the Times said.
(Additional reporting by Joanne Allen in Washington and Parisa Hafezi in Tehran)