“Our wonderful husband and father died while he was detained by the Iranian authorities.” Disappeared in Iran in 2007 under mysterious circumstances, FBI agent Robert Levinson died in detention, according to a statement from his family on Wednesday.
His relatives assure that they “recently received information from American officials who drove them, as well as us” to conclude this death.
Donald Trump did not formally confirm his death, but hinted that it was likely. “They did not tell us that he was dead, but many people think that he is,” said the president, saying “sorry”.
He admitted that the information was “not encouraging”. “He has been sick for years,” he said, speaking of himself in the past and acknowledging that he failed to bring him back to the United States.
No longer working for FBI, says Washington
Without being able to give the causes or the date of death of the one who was often presented as the oldest hostage in American history, the family only estimated that it had occurred before the epidemic of Covid- 19 hitting Iran hard.
Washington has always claimed that Bob Levinson was not working for the U.S. government when he disappeared in March 2017 on Kish Island in the Gulf. He was then already retired from the FBI for ten years. But according to the Washington Post, he worked for the CIA and was to meet with an informer about the Iranian nuclear program. At the time, other sources assured him that he was investigating as a private detective the smuggling of cigarettes.
Just last week, American Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo called on Tehran to “immediately release” all American nationals from the threat of coronavirus in its prisons. “We also ask the regime to honor its commitment to work with the United States to achieve the return of Robert Levinson,” he said in particular.
Father of 7 children
The Donald Trump administration had several times displayed its determination to “locate” Bob Levinson so that he “could go back.” Earlier, in early 2016, the previous administration of Barack Obama had said it thought Robert Levinson was no longer in Iran. A reward of five million dollars had been announced for any information that could have led to his location and his return to the United States.
“It is impossible to describe our grief,” said his family, who had alerted several times to the diabetes and high blood pressure suffered by the father of seven, who turned 72 this month. “Without the cruel and heartless acts of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and at home with us today,” she added, stressing that she had “waited for answers for 13 years”, without any contact. She also accused Iranian authorities of “lying to the world all this time”, claiming not to know what had happened to this ex-FBI agent.
Robert Levinson’s death, if officially confirmed, could further exacerbate the already extremely strained relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio called on the Trump administration to “hold Tehran’s nefarious regime” to account. His democratic colleague Bob Menendez also judged the Iranian authorities “fully responsible for the disappearance and death of Bob Levinson”.
A video of him in 2013
Iranian officials have said on several occasions that he had left the country and that they have no information about him.
An image of him bearded, chained and wearing an orange prisoner outfit had been made public in early 2013 and probably dated two years earlier, without anyone knowing in what circumstances, where and by whom it was taken.
“They kidnapped a foreign national and deprived him of his fundamental rights, his blood is on their hands,” the family accused. While she thanked President Trump for his efforts, she also attacked “those who in the United States government have abandoned him for so many years.”