US Navy vet­eran in Iran sen­tenced to 10 years in prison

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Nation & World - BY RICK GLAD­STONE New York Times

A U.S. Navy vet­eran held in Iran since July while vis­it­ing an Ira­nian girl­friend has been sen­tenced to 10 years in prison on charges that he in­sulted the coun­try’s top leader and posted a pri­vate pho­to­graph on so­cial me­dia, his fam­ily’s lawyer said Fri­day.

The lawyer, Mark Zaid, said the fam­ily had been in­formed ear­lier this week by the State De­part­ment of the sen­tenc­ing of the vet­eran, Michael R. White, 46, of Im­pe­rial City, Calif.

The in­for­ma­tion was con­veyed to the State De­part­ment by Swiss diplo- mats who rep­re­sent Amer­i­can in­ter­ests in Iran, Zaid said in a tele­phone in­ter­view. He said White, who has been in­car­cer­ated in the north­east city of Mash­had since his ar­rest eight months ago, has twice been granted Swiss con­sular vis­its.

White served in the Navy for 13 years and is the first Amer­i­can im­pris­oned in Iran since Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took of­fice more than two years ago.

The ar­rest has thrust a new ir­ri­tant into what has be­come an in­creas­ingly con­fronta­tional re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Iran.

Zaid said White had been given two hear­ings in an Ira­nian court, on March 6 and March 9, and was sen­tenced to two years for in­sult­ing Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, the coun­try’s top leader, and 10 years for the post­ing of a pri­vate photo. He said it ap­peared that the sen­tences were to run con­cur­rently.

Ira­nian of­fi­cials have not ex­plained fur­ther de­tails of the two charges. Nor has White been per­mit­ted di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with his fam­ily, Zaid said.

White’s fam­ily has said that he trav­eled to Iran with a valid visa and that his sole pur­pose was to visit a woman with whom he had fallen in love. Pre­cisely how they met, and ad­di­tional de­tails about the woman, have not been dis­closed.

White’s mother, Joanne White, has re­peat­edly said she fears her son is in fail­ing health and may have suf­fered a can­cer re­cur­rence while in Iran.

At least three other Amer­i­cans have been im­pris­oned by Iran – Sia­mak Na­mazi, since Oc­to­ber 2015; Ba­quer Na­mazi, since Feb­ru­ary 2016; and Xiyue Wang, since Au­gust 2016. All are ac­cused of spy­ing and sedi­tion-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties, which they have de­nied. An­other Amer­i­can, Robert A. Levin­son, has been miss­ing in Iran since 2007.

Their fam­i­lies in the United States, in­creas­ingly bit­ter about the ap­par­ent in­abil­ity of U.S. of­fi­cials to se­cure their re­lease, at­tended a con­gres­sional hear­ing last week to voice their griev­ances and urge the govern­ment to do more, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing a di­a­logue with Iran.

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