Iran killed one of its own nuclear scientists but blamed his death on a so-called “Israeli spy” who it executed last week, a leading Arabic news channel reported Wednesday.

Iranian authorities on May 15 executed Majid Jamali Fashi, who was convicted of assassinating nuclear scientist Masoud Ali Mohammadi in a car bombing in January 2010. The New York Times speculated that the assassination of Mohammadi was “part of a shadow war played out between Iran and Israel.”

But Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya, quoting Iranian opposition sources, said that Iran used Fashi as a scapegoat to please local public opinion. The opposition sources said they even doubted that Fashi was really executed, noting that the footage of his execution aired on public television was short and blurred.

The sources speculated that Iranian intelligence assassinated Mohammadi, the nuclear scientist allegedly killed by Fashi, because it had discovered that he intended to defect to the West.

Al-Arabiya said that the Israeli passport attributed to Fashi by Iran was so badly forged it “was not becoming of a country capable of building nuclear facilities.”

The channel reported that certain characteristics of the passport indicate that it was issued in the 1990s, not in 2003 as printed on it. Other obvious faults in the travel document include a misplaced passport number and a photo which displays the face tilted to the side rather than directly facing the camera.

“The Mossad would not place an illegal photo on a passport given to an agent in order to travel in Europe and elsewhere, as airport authorities would easily suspect it,” the report claimed.

Emanuele Ottolenghi of Commentary magazine also noted that Fashi is looking away from the camera in the alleged passport and that he appears to be an adult. If the 2003 date was accurate, Fashi would have been 15.

The Harry’s Place blog said that the facsimile displayed by Iranian TV shares exact details with a facsimile of an Israeli passport available through Wikipedia: Both were issued on Nov. 17, 2003 in Netanya.

Iran has repeatedly accused Israel of assassinating nuclear scientists in an attempt to thwart its nuclear program. Israel has not commented on such accusations.

(JTA contributed to this report)