Former Jewish FBI agent who disappeared in Iran now presumed dead

Former Jewish FBI agent who disappeared in Iran now presumed dead

Levinson disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort of Kish Island in March 2007.

The circumstances and timing of Levinson's death were unclear, but White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said Wednesday evening that the US believes Levinson "may have passed away some time ago".

Iranian state-owned Press TV reported in April 2007 that Levinson was in the hands of Iranian security forces, but since then multiple Iranian officials have insisted they know nothing of his whereabouts.

"It's not looking promising ... we feel terribly for the family", Trump said. His grandchildren will never meet him.

At a White House briefing on the coronavirus, Trump appeared to equivocate on the accuracy of the family's statement, saying that Iranian officials had not told the USA that Levinson was dead and that "I won't accept that he's dead".

"I mean, I have to say this, and they have been making this statement to the family I believe, but it's not looking good". "How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us".

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had not been told that Levinson was dead. We don't even know when, or even if, his body would be returned to us.

Mr Levinson, the longest-held hostage in United States history, disappeared in 2007 on the Iranian island of Kish.

"We don't know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic", the Levinson family said in a statement. For years, USA officials would say only that Levinson was working independently on a private investigation.

Levinson's family received a $2.5 million annuity from the CIA in order to stop a lawsuit revealing details of his work, while the agency forced out three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others.

In 2010, a videotape of a haggard, bearded Levinson emerged in which he wore an orange jumpsuit of the sort worn by prisoners being held indefinitely at the USA naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "We are so grateful for their efforts". Whether any new intelligence informed the recent assessment he had died was not immediately known, though the Trump administration has this year repeated demands that Levinson be returned home.

While speaking to reporters at the White House Wednesday, the president said he has not seen credible reports that former agent Robert Levinson is deceased. Relatives took that as the first real acknowledgement that Robert Levinson was in custody and being moved through the Iranian justice system. At the time, Trump called for Iran to turn over Levinson, whom he said was "kidnapped".

Tehran denied knowledge of Levinson's whereabouts last November, when it said a legal case involving him was under way at a revolutionary court that handles security-related cases. "That would be a very bad step!" he added.

The announcement of his death comes just weeks after a federal judge in Washington held Iran liable for his disappearance, saying the country was "in no uncertain terms" responsible for Levinson's "hostage taking and torture".

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