US Says Aware of Reports of Iran's Detention of American Citizen

Clay Curtis
January 10, 2019

According to his mother, White traveled to Iran to visit his girlfriend.

Joanne White told the New York Times that State Department officials had told her they were seeking access to her son via the Swiss consulate, as the US does not have formal diplomatic ties with Iran.

US Navy veteran Michael White is in Iranian custody, the Islamic Republic's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, confirming claims made by White's mother a day earlier.

Iran Wire's report was based on an interview with a former Iranian prisoner who was quoted as saying he had met White at Vakilabad Prison in the city of Mashhad in October. "It's very scary to me", she told CBS News on Tuesday. Only in recent weeks did State Department officials inform her that he was in an Iranian prison, White said.

She said she is anxious about his health, because he has had cancer and suffers from asthma. Lupe White said he has had an online relationship with a woman in Iran for six years and would go see her for two weeks at a time.

The State Department told his mother they had put in a request for a consular visit by the Swiss embassy, which represents the interests of the United States in Iran since diplomatic relations were severed almost 40 years ago after the hostage crisis. "I just want to see him home safe and sound", Joanne White said by phone.

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

On his third visit, when White and his girlfriend were about to fly to Turkey, he was arrested at Hasheminejad Airport in Mashhad, Farhadi said. "The last time I had contact with him was July 13th". "Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional information to provide at this time", the official said.

Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak, an Iranian-American businessman, were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the US government.

The detention comes amid growing tensions between the Trump administration and Iran since the United States pulled out of the nuclear accord with Iran last May and re-imposed sanctions.

The Swiss have provided consular services for Americans in Iran since 1980 when the US cut off diplomatic ties with Tehran.

The last time Iran released US citizens from its prisons was when the nuclear agreement took effect in January 2016.

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