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Iran: We're Holding US Veteran Due to 'Private Complaint'

Michael White, 46, has been detained since July; his mother says he has cancer, needs treatment
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 25, 2019 9:07 AM CST
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a ceremony in Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 10, 2019.   (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

(Newser) – A US Navy veteran detained in Iran is being held in connection to a "private complaint," the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported Friday. Michael White, 46, has been held since July, the first known American to have been detained in Iran since President Trump took office, per the AP. His family says he traveled to Iran to visit his girlfriend, whom he met online, and was arbitrarily detained. The Friday report quoted prosecutor Gholamali Sadeghi as saying the case is still "under investigation," without elaborating. He didn't confirm reports that the man faces security charges. Under Iranian law, a private complaint would refer to allegations made by a citizen, not the state. White worked as a cook for the Navy and left the service about a decade ago, per a family spokesman, who insists White wasn't a spy and had never been one.

The spokesman says White had recently worked as a janitor. Joanne White, the detainee's mother, issued a statement earlier this month calling on the Trump administration to secure his release. She said her son was undergoing cancer treatment and feared he wouldn't survive prolonged detention. Iran in the past has detained Westerners and dual nationals to use them as leverage in negotiations. There are at least four other known US citizens being held in Iran on espionage charges, as well as a US permanent resident. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says Levinson isn't in the country and that it has no further information about him, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.

(Read more Iran stories.)

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