Tehran says lacking former US agent left Iran years in the past

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Tehran has mentioned a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran 13 years in the past had left the nation a very long time in the past, regardless of his household saying a day earlier that he had died in Iranian custody.

Robert Levinson went lacking on Iran’s Kish Island within the Gulf in March 2007. The case is one other irritant within the already hostile relationship between Washington and Tehran.

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Levinson’s household mentioned on Wednesday it now believed Levinson died in Iranian custody, primarily based on data from US officers.

“Today with aching hearts, we are sharing devastating news about Robert Levinson, the head of our family,” they mentioned in an announcement.

However, Iran’s overseas ministry spokesman mentioned on Thursday, primarily based on what he referred to as credible proof, Levinson had left Iran “years ago” for an unspecified vacation spot.

“In the past years Iran has tried to find out his state but could not find any signs of him being alive,” spokesman Abbas Mousavi mentioned, based on state tv.

Reuters information company had reported in 2013 that Levinson, a non-public detective and former FBI agent, was investigating allegations of corruption by well-connected folks in Iran.

Lawyer David McGee had then mentioned Levinson was making an attempt to hint cash laundered via Iranian exiles living in Toronto.

US officers had acknowledged to Reuters that Levinson had a relationship with the CIA as a supply on the time he visited Kish Island and disappeared.

A video launched in 2011 confirmed him pleading for assist. It didn’t say who was holding him or the place.

Tehran denied data of Levinson’s whereabouts final November, when it mentioned a authorized case involving him was underneath method at a revolutionary courtroom that handles security-related instances.

“Iran has always maintained that its officials have no knowledge of Mr Levinson’s whereabouts, and that he is not in Iranian custody. Those facts have not changed,” the spokesman for Iran’s mission on the United Nations, Alireza Miryousefi, mentioned on Thursday.

US President Donald Trump mentioned on Wednesday he had not been instructed that Levinson was lifeless.

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But White House nationwide safety adviser Robert O’Brien mentioned later that an investigation was nonetheless occurring however “we believe that Bob Levinson may have passed away some time ago”.

Levinson’s household mentioned of their assertion: “We recently received information from US officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody.”

They mentioned they didn’t know when or how he died however that it was earlier than the coronavirus epidemic hit Iran. Nor did they know if Levinson’s physique would ever be returned to them.

O’Brien mentioned Iran should present a whole accounting of what occurred to Levinson. Levinson disappeared after flying from Dubai to Kish in 2007. There he met with Daoud Salahuddin, an American “militant” who fled to Iran whereas dealing with expenses within the homicide of an Iranian embassy official primarily based in Washington, DC.

Levinson, then a non-public investigator, was searching for data on alleged corruption involving former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his household, sources aware of his work mentioned.

The Iranian authorities has by no means publicly acknowledged any position in Levinson’s abduction, although on the time of his disappearance a government-affiliated media outlet had mentioned he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces”.

Some US investigators, no less than till not too long ago, believed Levinson was nonetheless alive, whereas officers at different US businesses consider he died maybe years in the past.

The US and the Islamic republic are longtime foes. Washington opposes Tehran’s affect within the Middle East and backs its regional rival Saudi Arabia. They additionally help opposing sides in wars in Yemen and Syria.

Washington additionally maintains powerful financial sanctions on Iran. In 2018, Trump pulled the US out of a world settlement which curbed Iran’s nuclear programme. 

SOURCE: Reuters information company