Robert Levinson, formerly an FBI agent, missing since 13 years has been announced dead in custody in Iran according to his family.
Levinson disappeared from Iranian island Kish in 2007. He is said to be the longest held hostage in US history. He has retired from the FBI in 1998 and was working as a private investigator on cigarette counterfeiting in Iran. It is suspected he was picked up by Iranian intelligence for bargaining purposes with Washington.
According to his family he was assigned to CIA mission. The family believes he died long before the coronavirus pandemic took effect.
US President Donald Trump expressed his grief on the loss saying, “I’ve been very much involved in that and he was a great gentleman and a great family.”
“It’s not looking good, he wasn’t well for years in Iran, it’s not looking promising,” said Trump.
He added that Levinson was sick for a long time. In November, Trump had tweeted calling for Iran to turn over Levinson.
The Levinson family statement on Wednesday said they had recently received information from US officials that had led them to conclude he had died in Iranian custody.
“It is impossible to describe our pain,” they said. “His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them. If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today.”
Levinson could be last seen in photographs bearded and attired in an orange jumpsuit, one similar to one worn by US detainees in Guanatanamo Bay. The family says they are the last proof of life along with a video received in 2010, without any knowledge about his whereabouts. A sign reading, “Why you cannot help me” hung around his neck in one of the photos.
The video had Pashtun wedding music playing in the background which leads to experts suspecting it was sent through Pakistan while the internet address was traced to Afghanistan. They say he could be held in any of the two countries.
Another theory suggests that ran could have used external sources to send the video so as to shift the suspicion of Levinson’s disappearance on someone else.