In a dramatic gesture they said was meant to help protect their comrades still held captive in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, 13 former hostages sat in silence at a meeting with the press here tonight while their spokesman read a statement dictated by their former Iranian captors.
"We were told," the group's spokesman said, "if we provided this information, the treatment of the hostages would not deteriorate."
The scene in the theater of the U.S. Air Force hospital here, where the recently freed hostages have been recuperating before returning to the United States Thursday, was both moving and strained.
The former hostages -- five women, seven black servicemen and one black civilian -- filed into the room crowded with reporters and television cameras. They sat in chairs on a platform, looking stone-faced toward the audience. After their spokesman, Lloyd Rollins 40, of Alexandria, Va., read the Iranian statement and an explanation agreed to by the group, they all rose and left. They answered no questions.
The group's action seemed to suggest they were willing to help the 49 hostages left behind in the besieged embassy in any way they could, including serving as a voice for the Iranian grievances while maintaining silence on their personal attitudes.
Rollins, a civilain general services officer who worked for the State Department at the embassy, said the statement by the "Iranian students" was "to the American people."
After the Iranians' statement, the group's declaration said, "Please realize that we are concerned about the safety of the hostages who remain in Tehran and are looking forward to their safe return home."
While the returnees "appreciate your interest in our condition," Rollins told reporters, "we do not want to jeopardize the safety of our friends who remain in Iran. We, therefore, request that you respect the way we have chosen to appear before you and our desire not to answer any additional questions. Until our friends have been freed, we will not discuss the situation in Tehran or what we have experienced."
The decision to remain silent is in line with what clearly has been State Department policy since the first hostages were released, namely, to keep the returnees from saying anything.
According to the students' statement as read by Rollins, the shah of Iran "committed many atrocities during his reign . . . and the American press ill-informed the public about these atrocities."
"Many unarmed people were killed with weapons furnished by the U.S. government," and SAVAK secret police and military personnel "were trained by the U.S. government and the CIA," the statement added.
Rollins said the students do not believe the shah is ill, cannot understand why he was permitted to enter the United States and state that "it would be detrimental to the welfare of the remaining hostages if the shah is permitted to leave the U.S. and enter a third country."
The students claim their "only" concern is return of the shah along with "the monies and treasures he stole from the Iranian people."
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] President Carter to attend," according to the statement Rollins read.
The students also claimed that the United States is fomenting revolution in the Iranian provinces of Kurdistan and Khuzestan and that Iranian culture has been ruined by the West.
The students, Rollins read, also expressed their concern about Iranian students being "beaten" in the United States.
The returned hostages -- three of whom arrived here Monday and 10 Tuesday -- will travel aboard a U.S. Air Force jet, arriving at Andrews Air Force base outside Washington at 10:00 a.m. Thursday in time for a Thanksgiving reunion with their families.