American recounts ‘psychological torture’ in Iran prison after freed in exchange

An American businessman released after five years in an Iranian prison has broken his silence about the “psychological torture” he suffered during his captivity.

Emad Shargi, 59, was released in September along with four other Americans held captive in Tehran as part of a deal with the US to release $6 billion in oil revenue.

Access to that money has since been suspended following the deal between Qatar and the Biden administration following the Hamas attack on Israel, amid questions about Iran's role in planning the bloodshed.

Sargi and his wife, who are both Iranian-American, moved to the country in 2016 when their grown daughters left for university to make a life there.

He says that in April 2018 15 armed agents from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arrived at their home, arrested him and took him to the city's notorious Evin prison.

While behind bars, Iranian officials accused him of being a US spy, which he called a “ridiculous” claim.

He said 60 minutes In an interview to be broadcast this Sunday, investigators tried to scare him into confessing by threatening him with a sea boat, electrocution and hanging.

“They took me to a room. They told me to undress. They gave me some blue clothes. They told me, ‘This is the end of the line for you, and you'll probably never see the outside world,'” he told CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan.

“From now on no one will address you by your name. You're a code now.” 97-0-10 was my code.”

Mr Shargi says that's when the guards turned to “psychological torture” against him.

“They take you to a very small room. And then they throw a giant of a man in there, who proceeds to hit you, push you, threaten to kill you,” he said.

Family members hug Emad Shargi after he disembarks from a plane at Davison Army Airfield in Fort Belvoir, Virginia

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“And then the good cop comes in and says, ‘Look, I can stop this. Just confess. You have to confess to being a spy,' which is ridiculous.'

For the first eight weeks of his imprisonment, he says he did not know if his wife had also been detained, with his interrogators using the screams of the women in the prison against him.

“‘I [didn’t] I know if he was tortured. I didn't know if she was being raped. I [had] no idea,” he said. “This is her own form of torture.”

Mr Sarghi says his father had warned him against moving to Iran, saying: “Emad, you don't know this country. People like you with dual citizenship, pick these people up once in a while for whatever use they have.”

And he says what he learned from his sad experience is, “Listen to your dad.”