A former hostage has charged that an American minister turned over to the Iranians a note the hostage managed to slip him during a visit last April decribing his mistreatment by the Iranians.
The Iranian recovery of the note, which contradicted their claims the hostages were being well treated, caused "a lot of problems" for the captives, ex-hostage Charles Jones said.
Jones told the Detroit Free Press earlier this week that he had written the note in hopes an American minister could smuggle it out and give Americans their first glimpse of what was happening.
Instead, he charged, the unidentified minister "immediately turned the note over to the students, our captors."
Yesterday, one of four ministers who visited the hostages in April, the Rev. Darrell Rupiper, a Catholic priest in Omaha, Neb., told the Omaha World-Herald that he presumed Jones was talking about him. But he said he turned over the note only after the Iranians demanded that he do so.
"A note was handed to me during the April visit," Rupiper said. "I did not have a chance to read the note. As soon as the hostages were ushered out of the room, a student came up and said, 'Give me the note.' He must have seen [the hostage] give it to me."
Rupiper never revealed the incident because he said he feared it would only cause the hostage's parents more anxiety. He declined to discuss who gave him the note.
Rupiper, who had expressed support for the aims of the Iranians revolution but deplored the taking of the hostages, was in a group of ministers who called themselves the Committee for Iranian-American Crisis Resolution. He had also visited the hostages in February.
At the time he visited Iran in April he expressed his belief that the hostages were being well treated. He praised the Iranians for their treatment of the hostages and said he had offered to exchange himself for one of the diplomats.
Last week, Rupiper had expressed surprise at reports of poor treatment of the hostages.
Jones, who returned to his home in Detroit yesterday, was not available for comment. Rupiper was reported to be on leave because of exhaustion and was not expected to return to his Omaha residence until early February.
While Jones refused to reveal the identity of the minister to whom he gave the note, the April visit of Rupiper and the other ministers to Iran has come under fire from two other hostages.
"If you see that Rev. Rupiper, spit in his face for me," Marine Sgt. James M. Lopez, one of the 52 hostages, told his family during a phone call from West Germany earlier this week. "Didn't he say everything was peaches and cream [after his visit]?" he asked in a taped phone conversation replayed for journalists.
Another ex-hostage, Army Warrant Officer Joseph Hall, charged that the group of ministers "did us irreparable harm."
"They did not convey the true experience, what we were going through, to the American public," Hall said. He said they "misrepresented" the hostages' conditions.
Jones echoed those comments. "Some of the people who came over, especially the clergy, were hypocrites because they came over to aid and comfort the hostages, but they ended up giving aid and comfort to the Iranians and actually making it worse for us," he said.