Family of Ex-FBI Agent Robert Levinson Announces He Died in Iranian Custody, Iran Claims He Left Long Ago
Iranian Foreign Ministry spox: The longest serving U.S. prisoner “left Iran years ago for an unknown destination.”
Days after the family of Robert Alan Levinson concluded that the former FBI agent may have died in Iranian captivity, Tehran has come out with a bizarre statement claiming that he left the country “long ago.”
Levinson’s family announced on Wednesday that he died in Iran. “Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us,” the family said in a statement. “If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today. It has been 13 years waiting for answers.”
Levinson, the longest serving U.S. prisoner in Iran, left “years ago for an unknown destination,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi declared on Thursday. The Iranian statement confirms Washington’s worst fears that the ex-FBI agent may have died in captivity. “It’s not looking great, but I won’t accept that he’s dead,” Trump said at a press briefing on the Wuhan coronavirus on Wednesday. “They haven’t told us that he’s dead, but a lot of people are thinking that that’s the case.”
Levinson, then 58, went missing after flying from Dubai to the Persian Gulf island of Kish as part of a private investigation in March 2007. The former FBI agent was looking into an alleged corruption case involving former Iranian President Akbar Rafsanjani, Reuters news agency reported.
The Czech Republic based Radio Free Europe reported the official Iranian statement:
Tehran says that Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent, left the country “long ago” and doesn’t know where he is, rejecting a claim by his family saying he died in Iranian custody.
“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said in a statement on March 26.
He added that officials had done everything possible to find out what happened after Levinson left Iran but had found “no evidence of him being alive.”
“Iran has always maintained that its officials have no knowledge of Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, and that he is not in Iranian custody. Those facts have not changed,” added Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for the Iranian mission at the United Nations.
The U.S. government also appears to believe that Levinson may have died after more than a decade of captivity and torture at the hands of Iranian regime. “While the investigation is ongoing, we believe that Bob Levinson may have passed away some time ago,” U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said earlier this week. “Iran must provide a complete accounting of what occurred with Bob Levinson before the United States can fully accept what happened in this case,” he demanded.
For years, Tehran kept denying holding Levinson hostage. Only after President Donald Trump took office, the regime officially acknowledged that there was an ongoing case against former FBI agent before an Islamic “revolutionary court.” The arrest was also confirmed in an article (since deleted) in the Iranian regime mouthpiece PressTV at that time.
A U.S. federal judge on March 10 ruled to hold Tehran responsible for the “hostage taking and torture” of Levinson. In November 2019, the U.S. State Department announced a $20 million reward for information leading to his safe return.
The latest admission from Tehran follows a U.S. request for the release of American prisoners held in Iranian jails amid the nationwide Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. The U.S. is concerned about the safety of illegally detained Americans as the country is in the grip of the life-threatening disease.
The Trump administration recently vowed ‘decisive’ action against Tehran if the captive U.S. nationals suffered any harm. The Iranian regime “continues to unjustly detain several American citizens, without cause or justification,” Pompeo said on March 10. “The United States will hold the Iranian regime directly responsible for any American deaths. Our response will be decisive.”
President Trump on Levinson: “It’s not looking great, but I won’t accept that he’s dead.” (March 25)
[Cover image via YouTube]
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