Commemorating the 12th Anniversary of the Capture of Robert A. Levinson

Press Statement
Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 8, 2019

Tomorrow marks the twelfth anniversary of Robert A. “Bob” Levinson’s capture on Kish Island, Iran. The Department of State renews its call on the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to return Mr. Levinson to his family. Representatives of Iran and the United States previously agreed to cooperate on locating and recovering Mr. Levinson. Iran must honor this commitment, and demonstrate its adherence to international norms and respect for human rights.

The United States Government remains unwavering in our commitment to reunite the Levinson family with their beloved husband and father, who served our great nation during a long and distinguished career. We share our deepest sympathy with Mr. Levinson’s family and friends, and stand with them in solidarity against those who would separate loved ones in the name of political gain.

We are determined to secure the release of all American hostages and wrongful detainees, including Mr. Levinson, and will not rest until they are home. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert C. O’Brien, the entire Department of State, and our partners in the United States Government are actively and tirelessly fighting to bring Mr. Levinson home. There is a $5 million reward for information that could lead to Mr. Levinson’s safe return. Information will be kept confidential and can be provided anonymously. For more information on the reward, please visit


Son of missing ex-FBI agent says Trump’s sanctions will help bring father home


The son of a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007 said Friday that he’s “hopeful” the Trump administration’s increased pressure on the country will help facilitate his father’s return.

Dan Levinson, whose father Robert, a retired FBI agent, went missing off Iran’s Kish Island almost 12 years ago, criticized the government’s initial handling of his father’s disappearance.

“The government dropped the ball, they didn’t address the situation quickly enough, they didn’t engage with Iran quickly, acknowledge what happened,” Levinson told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Krystal Ball.

“We think that was a big missed opportunity that has led us to that point, but we’re hopeful that the Trump administration’s able to remedy that,” he continued. “That they’re going to put all kinds of pressure on Iran and make sure that he’s not forgotten and not left behind.”

Levinson praised the Trump administration’s hard-line stance toward Iran. In addition to withdrawing from a landmark Iran nuclear deal, the administration last year reinstated economic sanctions on the country, targeting its banking, oil and shipping.

“The fact that they brought back sanctions — it’s going to hopefully bring the Iranians to the table and we felt there was dialogue during the Obama administration and that is necessary,” he told Hill.TV. “But there also has to be that pressure that brings Iran to send him home.”

The Levinson family filed a lawsuit against Iran in 2017 over Robert Levinson’s disappearance, and have continued to advocate for his release. Christine Levinson, Robert’s wife, testified before a House panel on Thursday, during which she expressed frustration about efforts to bring her husband home.

“My family’s dreams of reuniting with Bob continue to remain just dreams,” she told lawmakers. “But so far, their pleas have been met with little action.”

“It’s very difficult situation to deal with Iran it’s been three administrations — the Bush administration, this happened in 2007, and we feel like there hasn’t been enough effort to get him home over these years,” Dan Levinson told Hill.TV.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday introduced the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act. The bipartisan bill is aimed at improving efforts to bring back Americans held in hostage situations or detained unlawfully abroad.

Dan Levinson told Hill.TV that he was heartened by the renewed urgency of such efforts, saying that his family has not given up hope.

“People have heard he’s being held somewhere, but it’s always encouraging because we believe he’s still alive and that he’s being held by the Iranian government, so we’re going to keep pressing until we get him home,” he said.

US Lawmakers Renew Bipartisan Bid to Press Iran to Free Americans


U.S. lawmakers are making a renewed bipartisan effort to pressure Iran into freeing at least four Americans and a U.S. permanent resident viewed by Washington as hostages of the Islamic Republic.

A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee held a hearing Thursday in which family members of some of those perceived as hostages in Iran briefed lawmakers on the status of their loved ones. The subcommittee’s Democrat chairman, Congressman Ted Deutch, and top Republican, Congressman Joe Wilson, also used the hearing to announce their joint introduction of two congressional measures aimed at securing the freedom of those detained or missing in Iran.

One is a resolution that calls on Iran to unconditionally release U.S. citizens and legal U.S. permanent residents being held for political purposes.

The other is a bill that the lawmakers say would empower the U.S. president to impose sanctions on American hostage-takers. It also calls for elevating the role of U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs to the rank of ambassador.

More tools for president

In a statement, Deutch said the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, named in honor of an American who went missing in Iran 12 years ago, is meant to give the Trump administration “more tools to pressure countries to return Americans to their families.”

Besides Levinson, whose family believes Iran has detained him, Iranian authorities have jailed Iranian-Americans Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer Namazi, Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, and Lebanese U.S. permanent resident Nizar Zakka. Iran has said little about them beyond the alleged security offenses for which some have been charged. Relatives say the five have done nothing wrong.

Addressing the hearing, Deutch said he was concerned that the Trump administration’s 2018 withdrawal from a world powers’ nuclear deal with Iran and the lack of U.S. contact with Iranian officials could slow efforts to bring back U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

“I urge President Trump to sit down with each of these families, hear their stories, understand their suffering, and then take bold action to return their loved ones,” he said.

Wilson told the hearing that the bill would impose sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities responsible for the detentions.

“Iran has been taking hostages as a matter of policy and we must force Iran to change its behavior,” Wilson said. “We need to see an intense, concerted effort from Congress and the (Trump) administration to seek the release of our Americans who are being held in Iran.”

A previous bipartisan bill introduced by Deutch to punish Iran for perceived hostage-taking and human rights abuses passed the House last year but did not get to a vote in the Senate.

Family’s ‘living nightmare’

In her testimony, Bob Levinson’s wife, Christine, said her family “continues to receive reports that he is alive” but did not elaborate. Bob Levinson, whose 71st birthday would be this Sunday, disappeared March 9, 2007, while visiting Iran’s Kish Island as a private investigator. He had retired from a 22-year career with the FBI nine years earlier.

“We are all suffering a living nightmare,” Christine Levinson said. “My children and I have trouble sleeping. We wonder endlessly what kind of conditions my husband is living through.”

Christine Levinson and her seven children have been campaigning to try to locate him since his disappearance. Iranian officials have denied knowledge of his whereabouts.

Babak Namazi, the son and brother of detainees Baquer and Siamak Namazi, told the lawmakers that his elderly and ailing father is on a temporary medical furlough from Tehran’s Evin prison but urgently needs proper medical attention outside of Iran.

New book fuels hope, anger for family of ex-FBI agent abducted in Iran

Read the story here.

By Feb 14, 2019 10:46 AM ET

A new book by a former hostage – and a recent flurry of tips – are giving new hope to the family of retired FBI special agent Robert Levinson that he may still be alive more than a decade after he disappeared in Iran.

Levinson, a veteran agent and specialist in Russian organized crime, disappeared on Iran’s Kish Island in March 2007, while working on a murky CIA contract for intelligence analysts at the agency.

Iranian officials have always denied detaining him, but an intriguing anecdote in a new book by Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent who was held hostage there for nearly two years, suggests those denials might have been lies, compelling his wife Christine and their children to press the Trump administration to press Tehran for answers.

“President Trump is a deal-maker and we are hoping he will motivate the Iranians to finally resolve this and send our dad home to us,” Levinson’s daughter Sarah Moriarty told ABC News in an interview.

Trump has not met personally with the Levinson family since taking office, said a source close to the Levinson family who has been involved in the case. But during the 2016 presidential campaign, he pledged to bring home the Americans held as geopolitical bargaining chips by Tehran. Besides Levinson, there are currently four other Americans being held in Iran.

 An FBI poster showing a composite image of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, right, of how he would look like now after five years in captivity, and an image, center, taken from the video, released by his kidnappers, and a picture before he was kidnapped, left, displayed during a news conference in Washington, March 6, 2012.

Levinson’s family was shocked that he wasn’t released or otherwise accounted for when Rezaian and three other Americans held captive were set free by Tehran in January 2016, as the United States and Iran finalized the terms of the Iran nuclear deal.

Rezaian’s new memoir, “Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison – Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out,” raises the possibility that Levinson’s fate was known to Tehran’s ruling mullahs when they set those four American hostages free.

A source that Rezaian’s family had in the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader, who had provided “surprisingly accurate” details about many other matters, informed them that the government of President Hassan Rouhani had cast aside the Levinson issue.

“According to him, the issue of Bob Levinson had been a point of contention throughout the negotiations,” Rezaian writes in his book. “Initially Levinson – or a complete accounting of what had happened to him – was to be a part of the deal, but the Rouhani administration decided there was no political value of the time in acknowledging after eight years that yes, Iran had been responsible for his disappearance. They considered Levinson’s capture an issue of the Ahmadinejad years and not theirs to solve.”

“There is no reason to believe he’s not alive,“ Rezaian told ABC News this week. “There obviously are people in the Iranian system who know what happened to Bob. It’s high time his family was told what they know.”

 Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian at the Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse.

Rezaian’s revelation and other information they have obtained has convinced Levinson’s family not only that the mystery of his whereabouts and wellbeing can be resolved by pressuring Tehran, but also that his fate was an issue both sides of the negotiating table were willing to shelve in order for the Obama administration to more easily close the deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

“It confirms what we’ve been thinking all along, which is that the Obama administration left him behind,” said his daughter Sarah. “It’s incredibly disappointing but also a source of optimism.”

Several current and former senior government officials told ABC News that intelligence assessments at the time of the hostage negotiations concluded that Levinson, who turns 71 next month, had probably died as a hostage, in spite of what all of those officials agreed was an almost complete absence of any hard evidence of his demise beyond his advanced age, health problems and the duration of his captivity.

“It was nowhere near 100-percent and it wasn’t based on a scintilla of evidence at all, just pure speculation,” said one of several senior officials briefed on the Levinson case who spoke to ABC News.

There is still a $5 million reward for credible information about Levinson. A recent influx of tips that he’s still alive, which his family says has caught the FBI’s attention, has come after years had passed without any new information. The last proof of life came in 2011 when they received a handful of photos of Levinson, appearing bearded and gaunt, in an orange jumpsuit.

“It gives us hope,” Sarah Moriarty told ABC News.

 Christine Levinson, the wife of ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, and her son Daniel hold a press conference at the Swiss embassy in Tehran, Dec. 22, 2007.

Robert Palladino, deputy spokesperson for the State Department, which oversaw hostage negotiations with Iran during the negotiations, pledged the Trump administration’s commitment to bring home Levinson or ascertain his fate.

“The Trump administration is unwavering in its commitment to find Bob Levinson and to bring him home to his family,” Palladino said in a statement to ABC News. “The Levinson family has suffered for almost 12 years, and they deserve to be whole again. We are holding the Iranians accountable for helping us determine his whereabouts and returning him.”

During the negotiations to end Iran’s nuclear program in 2015 and into 2016, U.S. officials ranging from then-FBI Director James Comey to President Obama publicly described Levinson not as a hostage but as an American who “went missing” in Iran, a phrase which a former senior official said was intentional.

When Rezaian and other hostages were freed, Obama repeated that term, saying in a sweeping statement that there was no unraveling of the mystery but “Iran has agreed to deepen our coordination as we work to locate Robert Levinson — missing from Iran for more than eight years.”

In the past three years, however, Tehran has failed to deliver any information, officials say.

“The Iranians did make a pledge to provide any information they had on Levinson, but they didn’t provide anything of any value,” a former senior official in the Obama White House confirmed. A former Trump adviser said nothing has been offered about Levinson by Tehran since Obama left office.

 The Golestan Palace in Tehran, Iran.

Several knowledgeable current and former officials described “a divergence of views” within the U.S. intelligence community over Levinson’s perceived fate, and some former insiders still insist it is simply a tragic missing persons case that the Iranians wouldn’t benefit from prolonging.

“The FBI tended to lean toward optimistic that Levinson was alive but other parts of the government were less so,” the former senior official in the Obama White House told ABC News.

Asked in 2016 whether Levinson had survived his years of detention, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry, who closed the deal with Iran and halted its development of nuclear arms, told reporters, “We have no idea.”

After President Trump won the 2016 election and took office, he scrapped the Iran Nuclear Deal after blasting it as “horrible, one-sided,” and “defective at its core.” On Wednesday, senior NSC official Victoria Coates wrote in a policy statement that, “Robert Levinson, Siamak Namazi, and Xiyue Wang are wrongfully detained in Iran, as are numerous other American and Western citizens. This shameful and barbaric practice must end, and Iran must return Americans and other innocent civilians at once.”

Levinson’s family hopes his administration will find ways to pressure the regime in Tehran to resolve his disappearance by freeing him or, if he has died, returning his remains.

“We’re no closer to this now than we’ve ever been,” said his daughter Sarah. “We’re nowhere, still at ground zero, where our government asks questions of Iran and they still say, ‘We have no information’.”

ABC News’ Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.

Please stand up for human rights and freedom for political hostages in Iran

Link to Article
by Sarah Moriarty
Monday, 10 December 2018 10:30 GMT

Sarah Moriarty is a daughter of Robert Levinson who has been held hostage in Iran since March 9, 2007.

Today is the 70th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. My father, Robert Levinson, was just a baby when it was first introduced in 1948. Who would have thought then that this declaration would have a direct connection to his life – and the lives of the other hostages being held in Iran.

My family and five other families of political hostages in Iran from across the globe recently sent an open letter to our governments and UN officials asking for urgent help and the release of our loved ones. Their human rights are being violated every single day without action by these important world leaders.

Our fathers, husbands, brothers, grandfathers, friends all made the mistake of setting foot on Iranian soil after the Iranian authorities reinvigorated their hostage taking efforts in early 2007. Robert Levinson, Saeed Malekpour, Nizar Zakka, Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, Kamran Ghaderi, Ahmadreza Djalali – each of these men are being denied the fundamental human rights values of justice and human dignity. There are countless other individuals also held by Iranian authorities. We speak loudly on their behalf.

We all feel the same pain. We fear for each of our loved one’s safety, his well-being, his sanity. Each of these individuals is being used as a bargaining chip, with his health declining rapidly and without his most basic human rights, but the Iranian authorities have been allowed to get away with treating people this way over and over again. We cannot just let these people die in Iranian prisons.

Many countries have condemned Iran, but with no result. We appreciate these efforts and condemnations, but without Iranian authorities seeing a direct impact for the human rights violations they are committing, they will continue to do this and get away with it. This is an epidemic to which the world needs to demand an end immediately.

We received a tremendous response to our joint letter. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, “Iran invented reasons to throw these innocent people in jail and keeps them there with no end in sight and no fair judicial process for them to pursue. They should be released immediately and returned to their families. We won’t rest until they are.”

Ambassador Richard Grenell also released a statement saying that our letter “should be of concern to every government of the world interested in human rights.” He encouraged the public “to demand the release of all these hostages.”

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted that “six families of hostages held by Iran have come together to remind the U.S. government of its responsibility to do everything it can to bring their loved ones home.”

U.S. Senator Tom Cotton tweeted how “the Iranian regime’s continued practice of hostage taking places it among the worst human rights abusers on earth.”

Shamefully, we have yet to hear from the government of Iran.

We united families won’t stop here – we need concrete steps and action from our governments. This is just the beginning of our combined voice and we are asking each and every person to do whatever is in their power to help us stand up for the human rights of Bob, Saeed, Nizar, Siamak, Baquer, Kamran and Ahmadreza.

We won’t stop until our loved ones are home.

Son of American missing in Iran since 2007 pleas for his return

Link to Article

By Hollie McKay | Fox News

If he’s alive, retired FBI agent Robert “Bob” Levinson remains the longest-held American hostage in history – having disappeared in Iranian territory almost 12 years ago.

But there’s no “if” in the eyes of his children, who refuse to give up hope and are convinced he’s very much alive, and being held by the Iranian regime.

“He is being held against his will, with no human rights or access to his family,” David Levinson, 31, told Fox News in an interview last week. “It’s inconceivable that, almost 12 years later, we have no answers. The Iranian government knows what happened to my father and needs to send him now. We continue to push for more action by our government, and awareness of his case worldwide.”

Despite unconfirmed reports their father died in Iranian custody, his family believes he is “alive and trying every day to come home.”

The last affirmed proof of life emerged in late 2011, with photos of him donning an orange jumpsuit. Despite those images, Iranian officials have insisted they have no knowledge of him, and are not holding him as a political prisoner.

“We talked to many people prior to 2010 who though my father passed away in captivity, and the proof-of-life video and photos proved them wrong. We do not know where he currently is, but know that he was taken on Iranian soil by the Iranian government,” David Levinson continued. “We have no reason to believe he is not in Iran.”

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2017 stated Iran was indeed responsible for Levinson’s capture, and his “continued deprivation in liberty.”


And in December, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged several “innocent Americans” are being held hostage globally, highlighted Levinson’s case, and spoke of the need for him to be released. The FBI has a offered a five million dollar reward for information that could lead to his safe return.

For his family, no efforts or public declarations will be enough – until he’s home.

“We know this is a government-to-government issue, so we need President Trump’s help to make this the first priority in any discussions with Iran,” David said. “We know that Iran can send him home. We believe our father is alive and fighting every day to come home to us. We know that President Trump and the Iranian government have the means to work out a deal in which he can be brought home.”

Levinson, who was 58 when he disappeared in March 2007, had spent decades as a devoted DEA and FBI agent. He was retired and on contract with the CIA when he boarded a flight from Dubai to the Persian Gulf resort known as Kish Island. He was allegedly investigating cigarette smuggling and meeting with a possible Iranian source who was being targeted for CIA recruitment.

“The advice and the steadiness he brought to our lives is what I miss the most,” David added. “He is the kindest, most compassionate man you could ever meet. He lights up a room and leaves an impression on everyone he meets. My dad is a wonderful family man. We just want him back home with his family where he belongs to live the rest of his life quietly surrounded by people who love him.”
Hollie McKay has a been a Fox News Digital staff reporter since 2007. She has extensively reported from war zones including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and Latin America investigates global conflicts, war crimes and terrorism around the world. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @holliesmckay

Families Of Hostages In Iran To World Leaders: Bring Our Loved Ones Home

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The families of seven men detained in Iran have published an open letter to world leaders, pleading with them to do “what is in your power to help secure the release of our loved ones” and ensure their safe return home. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Monday that “the regime must release Bob Levinson and all other U.S. hostages immediately.”

Sarah Moriarty’s father Robert Levinson was detained more than 11 years ago, and has had no contact with his family since. Nadim Zakka’s father Nizar Zakka was kidnapped after attending a conference on women’s empowerment in Iran.

Here & Now’s Robin Young talks with Moriarty and Zakka, who say they both fear for their fathers’ mental and physical well-being. For Zakka, who was studying for his bachelor’s degree at the time of his father’s kidnapping, he says his “whole life turned around.”

“It’s really taken a toll on my life personally,” he says. “But no one’s going to ask for my father’s release more than I am. No one’s gonna want his release more than I do. So that’s why I do it because I know no one’s going to work as hard.”

Having developed friendships with these other families, Moriarty says in a way, she has taken on their pain, too.

“Everyone’s stories are so deeply upsetting, and there should be international outcry,” she says. “And the hardest part is that my family has not had any contact with my father for the 11 and a half years, and to hear these families suffering as well, it’s very hard.”

Interview Highlights

On how the families met

Sarah Moriarty: “We actually met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, and several families met together, and we realized that all of our stories were so similar, our frustrations with getting attention on our loved ones’ cases as well as our challenges in dealing with our own governments.”

On Zakka’s father’s kidnapping

Nadim Zakka: “My father was invited by the vice president of Iran at the time to speak at one of her conferences on women’s role in entrepreneurship. After attending her conference and even having dinner with her and her crew, my father got kidnapped on his way to the airport by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

“The same person that invited my father to attend the conference put out that interview through the Associated Press saying it was a mistake, and it’s in no way acceptable. Now again, my father was kidnapped by the [Iranian Revolutionary Guard]. Whether they’re having issues internally or whether they are just throwing the blame towards someone else, I really don’t know.

“It reached a point where they’re inviting known people, they’re inviting people that they know that people are going to ask about, just so they can use them as bargaining chips.”

Moriarty: “They are being used as bargaining chips. There’s been 20 individuals who have been taken by the Iranian government or Iranian authorities since my father was taken 11 and a half years ago. Our letter represents seven of them, but there are more. And this continues to happen and will continue to happen if the Iranians are not held accountable for it. That’s what we’re asking for in this letter is for concrete steps.”

On the kidnapping of Moriarty’s father more than 11 years ago

Moriarty: “Well first of all, my father was not hiding anything. When he went over there, he went under his own name and his own passport. He was there for both private business and as a contractor for our government. He has been kept without his most basic human rights for 11 and a half years. We don’t understand why there is not more of an outrage. This man, my father, is 70 years old. He’s not in good health from all reports that we’ve received, and he was there on behalf of the U.S. government. His two passions were his family and the U.S. government. He was one of the first to be held, and he’s always been left behind by our government, and he shouldn’t be any longer. He needs to be first to come home.”

On what the U.S. government is doing to bring the captives home

Moriarty: “I think they’re trying hard. I think it will never be enough until my father is brought home. I am so appreciative for Ambassador [Richard Grenell’s] efforts. He has been one of our biggest proponents since my mother and I met with him in September. Ambassador [Nikki Haley] has also started to take up the cause, but we need more from administration officials. We need them to put this at the forefront of every single conversation they have.”

On conditions for Zakka’s father in Iran and being in contact with him

Zakka: “Well, my dad right now lives underground with about 20 to 30 other people in a rat-infested cell with cockroaches and bed bugs all over the ground. He’s currently with another U.S. citizen … who was a Princeton student that was doing his doctorate and got kidnapped as well. The worst part about being able to speak to my dad, I would say, is that when they’re in Iran when they’re held, they’re getting tortured mentally and physically. And when they’re getting tortured mentally, they use family members. They use phone calls to play mind games with their detainees. I’ve had to argue with my father all the way across the world. They would basically try to convince their detainees, for example, with their kids like, ‘Your kids are living their own lives. They don’t care about you. They’re not asking about you.’ That their spouses left them behind and found someone else. So when I’m trying to help my dad, all I’m getting is feedback from him saying, ‘You did this. You did that.’ And it’s all paranoia that’s instilled by by his captives.

“At the end of the day, he is my father. And he’s, in my opinion, he’s one of the greatest men that ever came. He devoted his life for advocating freedom of speech and freedom of the internet. He feels sometimes that he needs to watch out for us. He’s always hopeful that he will leave. Some days I just hear him talking, and I think to myself, ‘How can he be so strong being held in Iran? How can he have no fear from the authorities?’ And his life is at stake every day. No one can really do anything to get him out. And at the same time, no one can stop them from doing anything to him. No one can stop them from torturing my father.”

On how these cases compare to the outcry against Jamal Khashoggi’s death

Moriarty: “We’ve seen international outcry in that case, and we’re looking for that as well. We want every citizen to call up their government. These individuals have been tortured. They’ve been in solitary confinement. They’ve been denied medical care. Several have never received a fair trial. My dad has had no trial. And action needs to be taken. And each individual person can ask their governments to take further action and concrete steps.”

Karyn Miller-Medzon produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on December 10, 2018.

Families of Iran hostages, Robert Levinson call on world governments to step up and ‘send our loved ones home’

Link to News Article

By Greg Norman | Fox News

The family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson and the relatives of nearly a half dozen others held captive in Iran say they “shall remain quiet no longer” about demands for world governments to help secure the release of those hopelessly detained in the Islamic Republic.

The declaration came in an open letter addressed to “World Leaders, Rights Organizations and Media Outlets” that was published by the group earlier this week. The families have “banded together now to come to you as one voice,” the letter stated.

“We believe that the Iranian authorities have little incentive to end the cruel and horrific practice of hostage taking as a result of inadequate pressure from the international community,” the letter reads. “World leaders need to make the political cost for committing human rights violations so high that releasing our loved ones becomes advantageous to the Iranian authorities.”

The letter highlighted the plights of six dual and foreign nationals who have been held hostage in Iran: Ahmadreza Djalali, Kamran Ghaderi, Nizar Zakka, Saeed Malekpour, Siamak and Baquer Namazi and Levinson. The latter four are some of the nearly 20 known American hostages who remain in captivity or who have been imprisoned by hostile regimes.

Zakka, a Lebanese-born Internet freedom activist who is a permanent resident of the U.S., was detained in Iran in September 2015 while attending a woman’ empowerment conference he was invited to. He has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges.

A month later, Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, was nabbed while visiting his family, three months after the Obama administration-led Iran nuclear deal was signed.

Namazi’s father, Baquer, a former UNICEF diplomat, was arrested in February 2016 after the Iranian authorities granted him permission to visit his son in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran.

And Levinson, now believed to be the longest-held American hostage in history, was 58 when he boarded a flight from Dubai and then made his way to Kish Island, a resort in the Persian Gulf, in 2007. He was allegedly investigating cigarette smuggling and possibly working on a book, but after checking into the Maryam Hotel, he met with an American fugitive, Dawud Salahuddin, also known as David Belfield and Hassan Abdulrahman.

Salahuddin, who is still wanted for the 1980 murder of an Iranian diplomat in Maryland, was being targeted by the CIA for recruitment, a source close to the Levinson case told Fox News in 2016. Levinson was hoping a successful mission that delivered Salahuddin would lead to full-time hours with the CIA, the source said.

The Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, which includes Levinson as a member, told Fox News that it feels like he is being used as “a bargaining chip for a hostile foreign power.”

“I think we need to commend the Trump administration for really preaching hard on this and realizing that Iran is a hostile foreign power and that they continue to take these hostages,” added the society’s executive director, Nancy Savage.

The FBI said earlier this year that the bureau and “our partners in the United States Government have worked tirelessly to bring Mr. Levinson home” – and a $5 million reward has been offered for Levinson’s safe return.

But Levinson’s family — and the others who wrote and signed the letter — say more needs to be done.

“Over several agonizing years, our loved ones’ cases have each been treated individually, but while they are all unique and complicated cases, this is not an individual problem, it is a pattern; a pattern we call on world leaders to help end,” the group said in its letter. “Responsible stakeholders on all sides of this issue know what to do. Please, secure our loved ones’ freedom from Iranian prisons.”

The relatives added: “We are a determined group of individuals and families speaking to our governments with one voice, as human beings who have been affected by the horrific situation that the Iranian authorities have created. We are asking for action.”

Richard Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany who previously was the longest-serving U.S. spokesman at the U.N., said this week Levinson’s family deserves information on his conditions and whereabouts. Levinson last surfaced in a 2011 video clip.

“I encourage the public to demand the release of all these hostages,” he said, referencing the open letter. “We will not rest until Mr. Levinson, and the rest of Iran’s hostages, are safely home with their families.”

Fox News’ Hollie McKay, Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.

Open Letter by Six Families of Dual and Foreign Nationals Imprisoned in Iran

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December 3, 2018

An Open Letter to World Leaders, Rights Organizations and Media Outlets

We are the families of political hostages in Iran, and we ask for your urgent action.

We come from many countries, with different backgrounds and different perspectives, but we have banded together now to come to you as one voice. We shall remain quiet no longer.

In September 2018, at a side event during the United Nations General Assembly, several of our families gathered together for the first time to share stories and struggles about getting our loved ones released. We met again a few weeks ago, this time to share our testimonies with the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. The similarities between our loved ones’ cases is striking. Each story is not just a case of arbitrary detention, but deliberate and tactical moves by the Iranian authorities to secure bargaining chips.

Ahmadreza Djalali, a Swedish-Iranian scientist, was invited by Iranian universities to develop training for researchers, and was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence of Iran in March 2016. He was kept in solitary confinement for more than 3 months, and without any access to a lawyer for 6 months. During that time, Ahmadreza was harmed physically and tortured psychologically, and falsely led to believe that he would be released if he made a confession as dictated by the intelligence agents. He was forced to do an interview that was later edited and aired on state TV to accuse Ahmadreza of unfounded allegations. Ahmadreza has not received a fair trial since being held for 985 days, despite no evidence ever presented against him and calls by the UN, academics and 75 Nobel laureates for his release. After being denied medical care for over a year, after two long hunger strikes, each lasting 40-50 days and leaving him in very weak physical condition, he has now been transferred to a hospital for emergency surgery. His physical state is extremely poor due to such a prolonged wait for medical attention
Kamran Ghaderi, father of three, Austrian/Iranian citizen and IT consultant, was arbitrarily detained at the airport when he arrived from Vienna to Tehran for a regular business trip in January 2016. Initially, he was held in solitary confinement without charges, and after three months of isolation, torture and false promises by authorities, Kamran signed a forced confession. His lawyer only visited him for the first time for 20 minutes the day before he was issued a 10-year imprisonment sentence for conducting espionage on behalf of a hostile nation. He has had no consular access. While in prison, he has had two operations in which doctors removed intervertebral discs and operated on his spinal cord. He also has a tumor on his left leg bone that has not been treated. Today is the 1,066th day of his detention
Siamak Namazi was arrested, tried, and summarily convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of “collaborating with a hostile state,” referring to the United States. He was held for over two years in exceptionally harsh conditions in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controlled wing of Evin Prison, including in solitary confinement and while being forced to sleep on a hard floor with no mattress, and being physically and psychologically tortured. He has been held for 1,145 days, since October 2015.
Baquer Namazi is Siamak Namazi’s 82-year-old father, who was also given a 10-year sentence on charges of collaborating with a hostile state. An ex-UNICEF staffer, he has suffered from deteriorating health, and has been hospitalized seven times with various heart and serious ailments. While out of prison on restricted medical leave, his health continues to decline. Baquer has been held for 1,015 days, since February 2016.
Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese national and U.S. legal permanent resident, is a world-renowned Internet freedom and freedom of speech advocate. He is the World IT Alliance Vice Chairman, UN-ITU member, and Secretary General of IJMA3: a consortium of 19 Arab ICT associations. He was invited to Iran by the Vice President for a women empowerment conference. After the conference, he was kidnapped by the IRGC on his way to the airport. Recently, in an AP interview,President Rouhani’s Advisor admitted that Nizar’s kidnapping was in no way approved by the government. Never before heard of in recent history has a country officially invited a guest and then taken him hostage.Nizar has been held for 1,172 days, since September 2015.
Saeed Malekpour was wrongly imprisoned in October 2008 when he traveled to Iran from Canada to say goodbye to his dying father. Saeed is currently held in Evin Prison on a life sentence. He was brutally tortured both physically and psychologically to force him to confess to a list of accusations carved out for him by the IRGC. He was sentenced to death twice and kept in solitary confinement for more than three years. He lived with the fear of execution for five years, despite no evidence ever presented against him. Saeed has not received a fair trial since being held for 3,711 days, more than 10 years.
Robert Levinson, an American citizen, “disappeared” on Kish Island, Iran. The Iranian government has never publicly admitted to taking Bob (as his family calls him) but a PressTV article initially reported he was being held by security forces and would be “freed in a matter of days”. 4,287 days later, over 11 ½ years later, Bob’s family still has had no contact with him. He has been held without his most basic human rights. His family has only seen a hostage video and photographs received from unnamed captors. The Iranian authorities have thwarted any attempt for the United States to investigate further, blocked due process in Iranian courts, and allude to a list of demands whenever his name is brought up.

The evidence is conclusive, and we should call this what it is: hostage taking. Since Mr. Levinson disappeared, over 50 people with some connection to a western power have been taken hostage by the Iranian authorities. According to arecent report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, as many as 20 are still held hostage in Iran.

Over several agonizing years, our loved ones’ cases have each been treated individually, but while they are all unique and complicated cases, this is not an individual problem, it is a pattern; a pattern we call on world leaders to help end. Responsible stakeholders on all sides of this issue know what to do. Please, secure our loved ones’ freedom from Iranian prisons.

Our outreach now is not about international politics. We are a determined group of individuals and families speaking to our governments with one voice, as human beings who have been affected by the horrific situation that the Iranian authorities have created. We are asking for action.

We believe that the Iranian authorities have little incentive to end the cruel and horrific practice of hostage taking as a result of inadequate pressure from the international community. World leaders need to make the political cost for committing human rights violations so high that releasing our loved ones becomes advantageous to the Iranian authorities. We urge all our governments, especially those who enjoy diplomatic relations with the country of Iran, to acknowledge this hostage taking crisis immediately and to take concrete steps that would help resolve these cases.

Do what is in your power to help secure the release of our loved ones and their safe return home by ensuring that their cases are at the top of the agenda of any dialogue with the Iranian authorities. Please act urgently before any more time has passed or pain imparted.

Please clearly and immediately join with us to tell the government of Iran that this behavior will no longer be accepted and must end now. We call on you to send our loved ones home to us.


The families of Robert Levinson, Nizar Zakka, Saeed Malekpour, Kamran Ghaderi, Ahmadreza Djalali, Baquer and Siamak Namazi, and the many morefamilies who remain silent in fear for the safety of their loved ones

* A copy of this letter was sent on December 2 to government officials within the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Austria, Lebanon, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Oman, the President of the European Commission, the European Union (EU) High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, members of the European Parliament, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, and members of the UN Security Council.