Iran accused of assassinating its own nuclear scientist

Ardeshir Hosseinpour’s sister says he was killed after refusing to help build nuke; Israel initially blamed in his death

Mahboobeh Hosseinpour, the sister of an Iranian nuclear scientist alleged to have been assassinated by Israel, has claimed that her brother was actually killed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) because he would not cooperate with the regime’s demand that he help create nuclear weapons.

“Western countries have long held suspicions regarding [Iran’s] nuclear weapon ambitions and Mrs. Mahboobeh Hosseinpour’s claims could help support these suspicions,” Dr. Iman Foroutan, chairman of Iranian opposition group The New Iran, said in a statement last week.

Mahboobeh said that her brother, Dr. Ardeshir Hosseinpour, was approached in 2004 by special agents of the IRGC on behalf of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wanted to enlist Hosseinpour’s services for a project aimed at increasing uranium enrichment for developing nuclear weapons. As part of the project, he would also be tasked with teaching and supervising Russian and North Korean scientists.

Deceased Iranian nuclear scientist Dr. Ardeshir Hosseinpour, whose sister has accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of assassinating him in 2007. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Deceased Iranian nuclear scientist Dr. Ardeshir Hosseinpour, whose sister has accused the Iranian Revolutionary Guards of assassinating him in 2007. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“He was offered a two star rank in the revolutionary guard and ownership of factories,” Mahboobeh told the Middle East news source The Media Line in an interview from her home in Turkey.

She said that her brother refused to work in Iranian nuclear projects, believing they would prove harmful to both the country’s economy and the international community. She alleged that his refusals led to Khamenei ordering his assassination by IRGC agents in January 2007.

Following Dr. Hosseinpour’s mysterious death, there were conflicting reports as to the cause, with media sources originally claiming he was “gassed.” Later, US private intelligence reported that he had died of radioactive poisoning and that sources close to Israeli intelligence had confirmed that he was targeted by Mossad.

As a matter of policy, Israel neither confirms nor denies reported assassinations, and Iranian officials vehemently denied that Dr. Hosseinpour had been assassinated.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, then Iranian vice president and head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, told the semi-official Fars News Agency that Iran’s “nuclear experts, thank God, are sound and safe,” and even went as far as to deny that Hosseinpour had worked for him.

However, Mahboobeh claimed that her brother “was the sole individual with the top credentials required for uranium enrichment in Iran,” according a press release by The New Iran.

Iranian journalist Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh supported Mahboobeh’s allegations.

He told The Media Line that the assassination was ordered “because of an email communication [Dr. Hosseinpour] had with me about the sensitivities of his work. They were aware of it, even if they did not have the content.”

Mahboobeh further supported her allegations by recounting conversations with her brother’s widow, Sara Araghi, who said that she had seen a DVD with detailed instructions for building, as well as neutralizing, a nuclear weapon “12 times more powerful” than the one dropped on Hiroshima.

Araghi, Mahboobeh related, said she removed the DVD from her husband’s office the day of his assassination, but that it was later stolen by a family member.

This is not the first time the Iranian opposition has charged that Iran assassinated its own nuclear scientists.

In May 2012, Dubai-based news channel Al-Arabiya, quoting Iranian opposition sources, reported that Tehran had executed a man for being an Israeli spy as cover for having assassinated its own nuclear scientist Masoud Ali Mohammadi in a car bombing in January 2010.

Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.

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