Published: Thu, January 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

US Navy veteran reportedly jailed in Iran since July

US Navy veteran reportedly jailed in Iran since July

"We have no higher priority than the safety and security of USA citizens overseas", a State Department spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said no further information could be provided for privacy reasons.

A U.S. Navy veteran has been held in an Iranian prison since July after visiting his girlfriend there, his family said, as they plead for Trump's help in his return home.

American Navy veteran Michael R. White, 46, was detained in Iran after visiting his Iranian girlfriend, whose identity remains unknown, his mother said.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, his mother, Joanne White, declined to discuss why her son was being held. According to the manager, White's wife was aware of the Iranian girlfriend and she said her husband would visit the woman in Iran about every six months for an unspecified period of time.

State Department officials told her three weeks ago that he was in an Iranian prison, she told The Times. She said the family only learned from the State Department in December, however, that he was being held in an Iranian prison. She noted that her son has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment for a neck tumor and is suffering from asthma.

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 US does not have formal diplomatic ties with Iran.

White's mother said her son visited the country "five or six times" to meet his girlfriend.

The Swiss have provided consular services for Americans in Iran since 1980 when the US cut off diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Siamak Namazi, and his father, Baquer Namazi, are Iranian-Americans who have been detained since October 2015 and February 2016, respectively.

The detention comes amid growing tensions between the Trump administration and Iran since the United States pulled out of the nuclear accord with Iran last May and re-imposed sanctions. Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of spying, the Iranian government said in 2017. USA officials believe Levinson, who suffered from diabetes, died in captivity after meeting with an American-born Islamic militant. Iran has denied having anything to do with his disappearance and said it doesn't know where he is.

In December, six families of foreign or dual nationals held or believed to have disappeared in Iran - including the families of the Namazis and Levinson - issued an open letter, along with the New York-based Center for Human Rights, alleging they essentially were political hostages detained without due process.

The first reports of another American being held in Iran came from the IranWire news website, which is run by Iranian nationals living outside the country.

The last time Iran released US citizens from its prisons was when the nuclear agreement took effect in January 2016.

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