WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump administration called on Iran to return a Jewish-American man who disappeared from Iran in 2007 while working on behalf of the CIA.
The statement issued Friday by the White House said the United States is “redoubling efforts to bring home all Americans unjustly detained abroad,” naming specifically Robert Levinson, an American former law enforcement officer, as well as businessman Siamak Namazi, 48, and his father, Baquer, both jailed on espionage charges.
Levinson, 68, of Coral Springs, Florida, was a private investigator and former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who also was a part-time consultant for the Central Intelligence Agency. He has been missing since disappearing from Iran’s Kish Island during what has since been revealed as a rogue CIA operation.
In March, the Levinson family sued Iran in federal court for unspecified damages, in part for inflicting emotional distress on his wife and seven children.
An Iranian court sentenced the Namazis to 10 years in prison last October on charges of spying for the United States.
The White House statement also called for the release of “all other American citizens unjustly detained” by the Iranian government and posed what appear to be more economic threats.
“President Trump is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned,” it said.
In response, Iran countered that the United States should release Iranian citizens in its jails.
“America should quickly release Iranian prisoners in the country,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. “The statements of the White House, as usual, are an example of interference in Iran’s internal affairs and the demands are unacceptable and rejected.”
President Donald Trump has maintained that the return of Levinson is a top priority, now backed up by the White House statement.