Michael White, who has been detained in Iran, has been released after nearly two years in custody, according to CBS.
White was the first American to be detained in Iran during the Trump administration. In July 2018, White says he was visiting his girlfriend in Iran when authorities there arrested him. He was reportedly sentenced to 10 years in prison in March 2019 on charges he insulted Iran’s supreme leader and posted private photographs on social media.
The United States Navy Veteran is en route back to the United States, from Tehran, after roughly four months of negotiations between State Department officials and the Iranian government, according to a senior U.S. official.
Switzerland has been the intermediary between the United States and the Iranian government.
Switzerland also facilitated negotiations to release the 48-year-old Navy veteran.
“Michael White’s a pretty tough guy. He’s a cancer survivor. He has now survived two years in Iranian prison where he was beaten in prison. He then contracted in COVID and survived,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s Special Representative for Iran, who negotiated the agreement to free White. “The Iranian regime has a history of using Americans as political pawns.”
“It is never a linear process negotiating directly or indirectly with the Iranian regime. We have a 41-year history of being adversaries,” said Hook. “And there’s been military conflict in our history.”
“The crime committed against this black man is the same thing the US govt has been doing against all the world,” tweeted Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “They have done the same in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Vietnam, & many other countries. This is the US govt’s nature & character that is being exposed today. #GeorgeFloyd.”
Hook struck back.
“Let’s not forget the Iranian regime sponsors more terrorism and more antisemitism than any nation in the world,” Hook told Fox News. “They have no standing to criticize the United States. For over 40 years this regime has systematically denied every Iranian their basic rights, every day of the week.”
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A senior U.S. official told Fox News that as part of the deal to free White, the U.S. agreed to release an Iranian-American doctor, Majid Taheri. Taheri served 16 months for violating American sanctions against Iran and was sentenced Thursday to time served. He’s lived in the U.S. for 33 years and is a medical doctor in Florida, the official said.
In March, White, who has battled cancer and other illnesses, was initially released on medical furlough, but he was still ordered to stay in Iran at the time.
Officials say they’re still working to free other American citizens in Iran like Siamak Namazi, a businessman; his father Baquer Namazi; and Morad Tahbaz, an American environmentalist; as well as secure the remains of former FBI agent Robert Levinson. His family announced in late March that they received intelligence that Levinson had died in Iranian custody.