U.S. Confirms: Iran Imprisoned U.S. Navy Vet for Past Six Months
10 January, 2019, 20:47
"We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas", a State Department spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said no further information could be provided for privacy reasons.
The New York Times reported Monday that a Navy veteran identified as 46-year-old Michael White, a California resident, had been seized by Iranian authorities and sent to prison in late July while he was visiting an Iranian girlfriend.
Joanne White told the New York Times that State Department officials had told her they were seeking access to her son via the Swiss consulate, as the USA does not have formal diplomatic ties with Iran. Only in recent weeks did State Department officials inform her that he was in an Iranian prison, White said.
White's mother said her son visited the country "five or six times" to meet his girlfriend.
On his third visit, when White and his girlfriend were about to fly to Turkey, he was arrested at Hasheminejad Airport in Mashhad, Farhadi said.
According to the Times, there are at least three other Americans now being detained in Iran.
State Department officials told her three weeks ago that he was in an Iranian prison, she told The Times. "He is still my husband", she said.
"Michael White was arrested in the city of Mashhad a while ago, and within a few days after his arrest the United States government was informed of the arrest through the Swiss Embassy in Tehran", ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said. American officials have demanded their release, saying the father and son did nothing wrong. Among them is Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University student who has been given a 10-year sentence for espionage. USA officials have demanded his release.
Bob Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, vanished on Iran's Kish Island in 2007 while on an intelligence mission. Iran has denied having anything to do with his disappearance and said it doesn't know where he is.
Last month, the families of seven political prisoners being held in Iran wrote an open letter to world leaders, rights organizations and media outlets asking for urgent action in the prisoners' release. IranWire also says that two other prisoners confirmed the presence of an American.
A fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, was separately released that month, U.S. officials said.
The last time prisoners were released by the Iranian regime was after the nuclear accord took effect in 2016.
In December, Abbas Edalat, a British-Iranian professor who was detained in Iran for eight months after being accused of affiliations with an anti-Iran group, was allowed to return to the United Kingdom.
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He added, "Michael is kept among unsafe criminals including murderers and professional drug smugglers and his life is in danger". Four Americans were arrested before Trump took office and are still being held captive in Iran.
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