Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on television dredged up 25-year-old memories that prompted four of the former hostages to exchange e-mails. And those four realized they shared the same conclusion — the firm belief that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their Iranian captors.
"This is the guy. There's no question about it," said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Ga. "You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him."
Scott and former hostages David Roeder, William J. Daugherty and Don A. Sharer told The Associated Press on Wednesday they have no doubt Ahmadinejad, 49, was one of the hostage-takers. A fifth ex-hostage, Kevin Hermening, said he reached the same conclusion after looking at photos.
"It stopped me cold in the middle of the room, and I knew, it wasn't one of those things, where, gee, you know that's a familiar face. I knew absolutely and immediately where I had seen that guy before," Roeder said.
Not everyone agrees. Former hostage and retired Air Force Col. Thomas E. Schaefer said he doesn't recognize Ahmadinejad, by face or name, as one of his captors.
Several former students among the hostage-takers also said Ahmadinejad did not participate. And a close aide to Ahmadinejad denied the president-elect took part in the seizure of the embassy or in holding Americans hostage.
Militant students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days to protest Washington's refusal to hand over the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for trial. The shah fled Iran earlier that year after he was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution.
Meisan Rowhani, an aide to the president-elect, told the AP from Tehran that Ahmadinejad was asked during recent private meetings if he had a role in the hostage taking. Rowhani said he replied, "No. I believed that if we do that, the world will swallow us."