(JTA) — The United States asked Iran’s new president to free a Jewish American who has been detained there for six years.
In a statement issued Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Hassan Rohani “to work cooperatively with us” to free Robert Levinson, as well as dual citizens Amir Hekmati and Saeed Abedini, “to return to their families after lengthy detentions.”
The request was made “respectfully,” as opposed to the requests to Rohani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which were much stronger, according to The Associated Press.
“These men belong at home with those who love them and miss them,” the statement said.
Levinson, a private detective and former FBI agent from Coral Springs, Fla., disappeared from Kish Island, Iran, in March 2007 while apparently researching a case. He is the father of seven children.
“His family has endured with courage and quiet dignity the pain of spending so many important family milestones without him there,” the Kerry statement said. “They shouldn’t have to endure additional worry about his whereabouts and well being. We call again on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to uphold its offer to help find Mr. Levinson and return him safely to his family.”
Hekmati was arrested two years ago on charges of espionage; the State Department says they are false. Abedini has spent a year in prison in Iran, part of an eight-year term on charges related to his religious beliefs, according to the AP.