Friday, 18 January, 2019

Iran's foreign ministry confirms arrest of former U.S. sailor

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi
Melinda Barton | 10 January, 2019, 17:30

Iranian officials said Mr White was detained in the city of Mashhad, in the north-east of the country.

The State Department said it was aware of the reports but did not comment further.

He had booked a return flight to San Diego for 27 July, she said.

A US State Department representative said the department was "aware of reports of the detention of a US citizen in Iran", and that it has "no higher priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas".

According to Farhadi, White said he became acquainted with an Iranian girl online and traveled to Iran three times to visit her.

Iran confirmed on Wednesday it had arrested an American, confirming United States media reports about a case that risks further worsening relations with Washington.

Michael White's wife, Lupe White, said she last saw her husband July 9, and he texted her a day later saying he was on a business trip for two weeks. Wang was later sentenced for espionage charges. She filed a missing-person report and had been communicating with the State Department and Department of Homeland Security. "They are being kept from their families, and they need to come home".

The New York Times reported on Monday that White, a 46-year-old former USA sailor, was arrested while visiting Iran and had been held since July on unspecified charges.

Xiyue Wang, a China-born USA citizen and Princeton University graduate student, was detained in August 2016 while doing scholarly research and studying Farsi, the university said.

Since October 2015, it has also been holding Iranian-American Siamak Namazi.

London-based news website IranWire said Mr White was being held in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad, northeastern Iran.

In December, six families of foreign or dual nationals held or believed to have disappeared in Iran - including the families of the Namazis and Levinson - issued an open letter alleging their relatives were political hostages detained without due process. While the Trump administration offered to discuss prisoners a year ago, a senior administrative official said Iran turned that offer down, leaving the fate of the Americans unclear.

Several US citizens have been held in Iran in recent years, with Mr Trump warning in 2017 that Tehran would face "new and serious consequences" unless all unjustly held American citizens were freed.

The last time Iran released any imprisoned Americans was when the worldwide accord on Iran's nuclear programme took effect in January 2016.

Speaking about the relations between countries, Iran leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called USA officials "first-class idiots" Wednesday.