Trump refuses to accept USA hostage death in Iranian custody

Clay Curtis
March 26, 2020

"Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the USA government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done", the family statement said. "Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most unbelievable man, a new reality that is inconceivable to us".

"If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today", the statement continued.

President Donald Trump expressed his sympathies to the family when asked about the statement at the White House coronavirus briefing, but he said the USA did not yet have confirmation that Levinson is dead.

Mr Levinson disappeared in Iran 13 years ago from the island of Kish off Iran's southern coast.

Upon his arrival, Levinson was said to have met with an American fugitive - Dawud Salahuddin - targeted by the Central Intelligence Agency for recruitment, a source close to the Levinson case told Fox News in 2016.

The family added they did not know if or when his body would be returned. His grandchildren will never meet him.

The government's acknowledgment of Levinson's death came hours after a White House briefing in which President Donald Trump appeared to equivocate on the news, saying, "I won't accept that he's dead".

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The family is calling for continued USA efforts to return Levinson's remains to the family.

The U.S. government has concluded that retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Levinson, who vanished more than a decade ago, has died while in the custody of Iran, his family said Wednesday.

The Levinson family thanked multiple US officials for their help, including FBI Director Chris Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and O'Brien, who before his post as national security adviser also served as the State Department's chief hostage negotiator. "He was an American hero - a true patriot, and his compassion and kindness knew no bounds", the family said.

"He had some rough problems prior to his detainment or capture".

The most recent message, in April 2011, is the most disturbing; Levinson looks disheveled with long white hair and a shaggy beard, and he is dressed in an orange jumpsuit like those worn by U.S. prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.

In November, Iran acknowledged for the first time in a filing with the United Nations that there was an "ongoing case" in the Public Prosecution and Revolutionary Court of Tehran for Levinson, despite having previously denied knowing about his whereabouts. "We expect American officials, as well as officials around the world, to continue to press Iran to seek Bob's return, and to ensure those Iranian officials involved are held accountable", they said. Although the development gave the family a burst of hope, Iran clarified that the "open case" was simply an investigation into his disappearance.

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