Trump calls on Tehran to turn over former FBI agent missing in Iran for the past 12 years
▶ In a filing to the UN, Iranian officials admit a Revolutionary Court has a ‘missing person’ case on Robert Levinson
US President Donald Trump is urging Iran to “turn over” a former FBI agent kidnapped in the country 12 years ago.
The US is offering $25 million (Dh91.8m) for information on Robert Levinson, who disappeared on an unauthorised CIA mission from Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007.
“If Iran is able to turn over to the US kidnapped former FBI Agent Robert A Levinson, who has been missing in Iran for 12 years, it would be a very positive step,” Mr Trump tweeted yesterday morning.
His request came the day after Iran said an open Revolutionary Court case involving Mr Levinson “was a missing person” filing, not a sign that the man was being prosecuted.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Mr Levinson “has no judicial or criminal case in any Islamic Republic of Iran court whatsoever”.
“It is normal that a case is opened like it’s done for any missing people anywhere in Iran,” Mr Mousavi said. However,
Iran acknowledged only that its Revolutionary Court had an open case on Levinson in a filing to the United Nations. AP obtained a copy of a UN report of the acknowledgement on Saturday.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual citizens with ties to the West often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
For years, US officials would only say that Mr Levinson, a meticulous FBI investigator credited with busting Russian and Italian mobsters, was working for a private company on his trip.
In December 2013, Mr Levinson had been on a mission for CIA analysts who had no authority to run spy operations. Mr Levinson’s family had received a $2.5m annuity from the CIA to stop a lawsuit revealing details of his work, while the agency forced out three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others.
Since his disappearance, the only photos and video of Mr Levinson emerged in 2010 and 2011.
He appeared gaunt and bearded with long hair, and was wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to those worn by detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Iran for years has offered contradictory statements about Mr Levinson.
His family is now suing Iran in a US federal court, alleging the Iranian government kidnapped him.
A senior State Department official said the US had not been informed of any change in that position.
However, the official said Washington had “through intermediaries” approached Iran to see if the statement represented a change in Tehran’s stance. The official said there had not yet been a response to the US inquiry.
An FBI photo of former agent Robert Levinson who went missing in 2007