July 13, 2008

Dissident's Tale of Epic Escape From Iran's Vise

After three days on the run, Ahmad Batebi picked his way down a rocky slope to the stream that marked Iran's border with Iraq. His Kurdish guides, who had led Mr. Batebi, an Iranian dissident, through minefields and dodged nighttime gunfire from border guards, passed him to a new team of shadowy human smugglers.

At the age of 31, after nearly eight years in Iranian prisons, subjected to torture and twice taken to the gallows and fitted with a noose, Mr. Batebi had fled.

But in Iraq, his former captors had one more chilling message for him. Not long after his arrival in Erbil in March, the new cellphone provided by United Nations officials rang. Mr. Batebi was shocked to hear the familiar voice of the chief interrogator at one of Iran's notorious prisons.

"We know where you are," the interrogator said. "You must turn yourself in."

Instead, Mr. Batebi, one of Iran's best-known dissidents, received permission to enter the United States. He arrived on June 24.

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