American Robert Levinson, held by Iran, believed to be dead

Robert Levinson, an American illegally held by the Iranian regime, is believed to have died, his family wrote in a statement posted Wednesday afternoon. “We received received information from US officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody.” His death is not believed to be connected to coronavirus, which has spread in Iran. It apparently took place before the virus threat there in February.“It is impossible to describe our pain. Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known,” wrote the family in the heart-wrenching letter. “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 answer.”The statement also notes that the US government left him behind for many years. The family vowed to make sure that the Iranian regime and those who abandoned him know they will not be going away. Iranian regime elements must be held responsible, they note. They also appreciated the support of administration officials such as Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, CIA director Gina Haspel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and US President Donald Trump. Several Senators and Congressmen were mentioned for having stood by Mr. Levinson’s cause, including Ted Deutch, Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez.The Trump administration has worked to release Americans held in Iran. Levinson, a retired FBI agent, went missing in Iran in 2007. The State Department offered $20 million while the FBI offered $5 million for a lead to his location. Levinson was 58 when he disappeared on Kish island in southern Iran. A photo of Levinson, bearded and held in Iran, was provided in a handout in 2011. According to Radio Farda and an Associated Press investigation, Mr. Levinson had been “sent on a mission by CIA analysts who had no authority to run such an operation.” This lack of clarity about how he went to Iran added to the mystery surrounding his disappearance and Iran’s denials of his whereabouts for years. Over time the US has viewed Iran as responsible for his kidnapping and officials have described him as a hostage. Iran was mandated in 2015 to cooperate in Levinson’s return. Like many things, Iran did not do that. Iran continues to kidnap foreigners, including academics and others who it holds as hostages. It has kept US journalists and students in solitary confinement and disappeared academics. Iran and its allies use kidnapping as a method and are frequently rewarded for it by western powers. Western diplomats often pose smiling with Iranian regime elements and do not make inquiries or even attempt to help those who are held hostage, preferring friendship to the regime to helping those who are suffering.

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