U.S. Says Long Missing Ex-FBI Agent Levinson Likely Died in Iran

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Senior U.S. government officials publicly acknowledged on Monday that Robert Levinson, a retired FBI agent taken hostage in Iran more than 13 years ago, most likely died in captivity, a conclusion his family said they came to earlier this year.

Levinson disappeared in Iran in 2007 after being arrested entering from the Persian Gulf island of Kish. In March his family announced U.S. officials told them they recently concluded Levinson died in Iranian custody prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but didn’t know when or how.

In March Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “expressed sympathy” for Levinson’s family but repeated an earlier claim by the Islamic Republic that he “left Iranian soil for an unknown destination years ago,” and that the U.S. secretary of state at the time had acknowledged this.

U.S. Says Long Missing Ex-FBI Agent Levinson Likely Died in Iran

Levinson’s specific whereabouts and his fate have long been cloaked in mystery. Even the U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the case, said the Iranian government sanctioned Levinson’s imprisonment, but didn’t clarify who was holding him.

“Senior Iranian officials authorized Levinson’s abduction and detention and launched a disinformation campaign to deflect blame from the Iranian regime,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

“The government of Iran pledged to provide assistance in bringing Bob Levinson home, but it has never followed through,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in the Treasury statement.

The U.S. statement comes as the Trump administration has ramped up efforts to tighten American sanctions on Iran ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next month. The officials said the case of Levinson underscores the danger of traveling to Iran, where three U.S. citizens remain imprisoned.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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