Family: US believes ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson has died

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FILE – In this March 6, 2012 file photograph, an FBI poster displaying a composite picture of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, proper, of how he would appear to be now, left, taken from the video, launched by his captors in Washington throughout a information convention. The household of retired FBI agent Levinson stated Wednesday, March 25, 2020, that U.S. authorities officers have concluded that he has died whereas within the custody of Iran. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. authorities has concluded that retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished greater than a decade in the past, has died whereas within the custody of Iran, his household stated Wednesday.

Shortly after the household’s announcement, President Donald Trump advised reporters that “I will not settle for that he is lifeless,” although his personal appearing nationwide intelligence director appeared to verify the information with an announcement conveying sympathies for the Levinsons.

The household stated in an announcement posted on Twitter that it had no details about how or when Levinson had died, however that it occurred earlier than the latest coronavirus outbreak. The household stated info that U.S. officers had obtained led them to conclude that he’s lifeless.

U.S. officers communicated the information to Levinson’s household in a gathering in Washington in latest weeks, in keeping with an individual conversant in the scenario who spoke on situation of anonymity to debate the non-public encounter. The individual stated the details about Levinson had come from Iran’s overseas minister.

“It is unimaginable to explain our ache,” the household’s assertion stated. “Our household will spend the remainder of our lives with out probably the most wonderful man, a brand new actuality that’s inconceivable to us. His grandchildren won’t ever meet him. They will know him solely by way of the tales we inform them.’

Levinson disappeared on March 9, 2007, when he was scheduled to satisfy a supply on the Iranian island of Kish. For years, U.S. officers would say solely that Levinson was working independently on a non-public investigation.

But a 2013 Associated Press investigation revealed that Levinson had been despatched on a mission by CIA analysts who had no authority to run such an operation.

The Trump administration has made it a precedence to hunt the discharge of American hostages and prisoners detained abroad. Last week, administration officers touted the discharge from Lebanon of a New Hampshire restaurant proprietor jailed on decades-old allegations and the medical furlough of a Navy veteran from an Iranian jail.

The Levinson household thanked a number of U.S. officers for his or her assist, together with FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Robert O’Brien, the Trump administration’s nationwide safety adviser.

But it additionally stated: “Those who’re chargeable for what occurred to Bob Levinson, together with these within the U.S. authorities who for a few years repeatedly left him behind, will in the end obtain justice for what they’ve finished. We will spend the remainder of our lives ensuring of this, and the Iranian regime should know we is not going to be going away.”

The household stated it doesn’t know when or if Levinson’s physique might be returned for burial.

At a White House briefing on the coronavirus, Trump appeared to equivocate on the accuracy of the household’s assertion, saying that Iranian officers had not advised the U.S. that Levinson was lifeless and that “I will not settle for that he is lifeless.”

But he additionally acknowledged that “it’s not looking promising” and stated Levinson, who had diabetes and hypertension on the time of his disappearance, had had “some tough issues.”

“He was an excellent gentleman,” he stated.

The household obtained a video in late 2010 and proof-of-life pictures in 2011 during which he appeared raveled with an extended beard and carrying an orange jail jumpsuit like these given to detainees on the Guantanamo Bay jail. But even then, his whereabouts and destiny weren’t recognized.

Iran repeatedly has stated it has no details about Levinson, although U.S. diplomats and investigators have lengthy stated they thought he was taken by Iranian authorities brokers.

In November, the Iranian authorities unexpectedly responded to a United Nations question by saying that Levinson was the topic of an “open case” in Iranian Revolutionary Court. Although the event gave the household a burst of hope, Iran clarified that the “open case” was merely an investigation into his disappearance.

The announcement of his loss of life comes simply weeks after a federal choose in Washington held Iran answerable for his disappearance, saying the nation was “in no uncertain terms” chargeable for Levinson’s “hostage taking and torture.” The household had sued for $1.5 billion in damages.

The choose’s resolution adopted a weekslong trial of emotional testimony from Levinson’s household, together with every of his seven youngsters.

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Associated Press author Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP