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Former hostage says Iran must be held accountable

By Ed Brock

Chuck Scott was walking by the television in his house when heard a familiar voice - that of Iran's President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard him talking," he said.

Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives near the Clayton County/Henry County line, was one of 52 Americans taken hostage in 1979 and held hostage for more than a year in the U.S. embassy in Iran. He says he realized without a doubt that Ahmadinejad was one of the people who held him prisoner.

He remembered him by his mannerisms as the well-dressed man who obviously seemed to be in charge whenever he sat in on one of the many interrogations Scott underwent during his captivity.

"He never asked me a question, never looked me in the eye, but he whispered into the interrogators' ears," said Scott.

Scott is one of at least seven former hostages who have made the claim against Ahmadinejad, an ultra-conservative who won that country's election last month. Iranian exiles and an Austrian politician have also accused Ahmadinejad of involvement in the 1989 slaying of a Kurdish opposition leader and two associates in Vienna.

Now 73, Scott has spent most of his life in the military, enlisting in the Army in 1949 at age 17. On Nov. 4, 1979 he was chief of the Defense Liaison Office at the embassy in Iran's capital, Tehran, when militant Islamic students forced their way inside and began a crisis that was a pivotal moment in American history.

For 444 days the American people watched as the hostages were paraded out on television in blindfolds and threatened with death as the crowd called for the downfall of "the Great Satan." Some of the hostages, clerical staff, women and some Marines, were released but 52 others, including Scott, were held for the entire 444 days.

Scott and others were interrogated for the first three and a half weeks of the crisis as the radicals sought to prove that they were a "nest of spies."

"I still have scars from that," Scott said.

He was beaten and deprived of sleep. There is at least one instance involving Ahmandinejad, Scott said. In the summer of 1980 Scott was being held at the Evin prison in north Tehran where one of the guards, Akbar, would sometimes let them out of their cells to walk in a narrow hallway. Ahmandinejad saw this one day and upbraided the guard, telling him the hostages were dogs and didn't deserve to be let out of their cells.

"Whenever I pray I still thank God we got out of there because it was a miracle that we got out of there alive," Scott said.

It's no surprise to Scott that Ahmandinejad has risen to such heights in the Iranian government. He said Iran's ambassador to Syria, Hussein Sheik al-Islam, and Vice President of Environmental Protection Massoumeh Ebtekar, also participated in the hostage taking.

Nor is Scott surprised that Ahmandinejad and the Iranian government is denying the accusations of the former hostages.

"There's a way you can always tell if a member of this Iranian government is lying," Scott said. "There lips are moving."

Having been a member of the hostage taking movement used to be an asset for ambitious Iranians, Scott said, but that's not the case now that the country is trying to reconnect to the outside world for economic benefits.

"Naturally they're going to deny it," Scott said. "The big question is what will the administration do about it. My belief is they won't do anything."

That won't be the first time officials in Washington have disappointed Scott.

Scott said the storming of the embassy was the second worst day of his life.

The worst was when his own government stepped in and squashed a lawsuit by Scott and other former hostages seeking restitution from Iran, citing the Algiers Accord that prohibited such lawsuits by former hostages as part of the terms of their release.

"Then I realized that the enemy was us," Scott said.

America is still paying for the way the Iran hostage situation ended.

Scott, who is fluent in Farsi, remembered reading an Iranian newspaper article with the headline "The Great Satan surrenders." In the article the writer says the country had just taken the hostages in clear violation of international law and was going to get away with it virtually unscathed.

"All the terrorist organizations in the world looked at that and said hey, terrorism works," Scott said.

Iran religious Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Shiah Muslim majority has close ties with fundamentalists in Iraq and terrorist organizations including Hamas and Hezbollah.

"Iran was, is and will remain the world's major sponsor of terrorism and America has turned the other cheek," Scott said.

As for what should be done now, Scott said answering that specifically is "beyond my pay grade."