Published: Thu, March 26, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson believed dead in Iranian custody, family says

Ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson believed dead in Iranian custody, family says

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Levinson's family said they had received information from U.S. officials that had led them to conclude he had died in Iranian custody.

Hours earlier, his family said information USA officials had received had led them to conclude he was dead. The family said that USA officials had received information that led the officials to determine that Levinson is likely dead.

The family said they did not know when, or even if, Mr Levinson's body would be returned to them, calling it "the very definition of cruelty".

"It's not looking promising ... we feel terribly for the family", Trump said. They haven't told us that he's dead. "They haven't told us that he's dead, but a lot of people are thinking that that's the case".

President Donald Trump expressed his sympathies to the family when asked about the statement at the White House coronavirus briefing, but he said the USA did not yet have confirmation that Levinson is dead. "Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most unbelievable man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us". His grandchildren will never meet him. They went on to condemn the "cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime" as well as "those in the US government who for many years repeatedly left him behind". While they did not say when he died, his family said that it had happened prior to the global coronavirus pandemic. "Thirteen years since we last saw him or had any contact with him". "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".

The family additionally saluted the "men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, active and retired, who did their best to bring our husband and father home", acknowledging that his rescue was "a personal mission for hundreds of agents and others who worked on this case over the years".

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Mr Levinson disappeared in Iran 13 years ago from the island of Kish off Iran's southern coast. The FBI said Levinson was the longest-held American hostage. They were sent three emails from his captors, who didn't identify themselves and demanded millions of dollars and the release of several prisoners in exchange for Levinson's release. The US initially claimed he was there on his own initiative, but in 2013, the Associated Press revealed he had been sent on a mission there by Central Intelligence Agency analysts who had no authority to run espionage operations.

Shortly afterward, Levinson disappeared, but Iran repeatedly denied capturing him or knowing of his whereabouts.

The family thanked Trump and his administration in their statement, saying that they "have done all they could to make our family whole again". We are so grateful for their efforts.

Around the same time, though, the White House's acting national intelligence director appeared to confirm Levinson's death with a tweeted statement conveying condolences to the family. Last year, for the first time, Tehran admitted that it had an open court case against him, saying in a letter to the United Nations that the case was ongoing, and giving no further details. The person said the information about Levinson had come from Iran's foreign minister.

The Levinson family thanked multiple USA officials for their help, including FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and O'Brien, who before his post as national security adviser also served as the State Department's chief hostage negotiator. "That would be a very bad step!" he added.

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