White House says U.S. continues to hold Iran responsible for abduction of Robert Levinson, longest held hostage in U.S history

The White House said on Tuesday the United States continues to hold Iran responsible for abduction of Robert Levinson, the longest held hostage in U.S history. The former F.B.I. agent was abducted in Iran 14 years ago.

“We will continue to demand answers and to hold Iran accountable for his abduction, detention, and probable death,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Last December, the U.S. announced sanctions on two Iranian officials for their involvement in the 2007 disappearance and presumed death of Levinson.

It was the first time the U.S. government had officially implicated Iran’s government in Levinson’s disappearance.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was imposing sanctions on two officials in Iran’s Interior Ministry, Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, accusing them of direct involvement in the abduction, detention and probable death of Levinson.

The officials said they had obtained new information about their involvement. 

They did not provide more details, but the sanctions included freezing of any property Iranians hold in the United States. In addition, any non-American people or entities that engage in financial transactions with Iran would be subject to penalties.

Early last year, Iran denied a claim by Levinson’s family that the former F.B.I. agent had died in custody there, saying “credible evidence” suggested he left the country years ago.

Iran has always claimed it has no information about what happened to Levinson. 

Biden’s White House Press Secretary Psaki said Iran has failed to cooperate with the U.S. efforts to secure his release.

Psaki wrote: “Today, we again mark the tragic anniversary of the abduction in Iran of Robert Levinson — the longest held hostage in U.S history.

“After 14 years and repeated, persistent efforts to secure Iran’s cooperation in locating Mr. Levinson, we are still without answers. Nevertheless, we will continue to demand answers and to hold Iran accountable for his abduction, detention, and probable death. We will not relent until all of our citizens who continue to be wrongfully detained in Iran and around the world, are returned to their families.

“The last 14 years have been heart-wrenching for Mr. Levinson’s wife and children. Nothing can bring back the lost years – more than 5,000 days in all –to his family, friends and loved ones. 

“But the United States will remain resolute in our support to the Levinson family and our commitment to pursuing justice for Mr. Levinson and his family.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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