The family of a former FBI agent held hostage by the Iranian government for more than 13 years announced Wednesday that they believe he died in captivity.
“We recently received information from U.S. officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody,” Levinson’s wife and children said in a statement on Twitter. “We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The New York Times reported that U.S. national security officials recently informed Levinson’s family during a meeting in the White House Situation Room of new intelligence indicating that Levinson died within the past few years.
Levinson, who retired from the FBI in 1998, disappeared in 2007 during a trip to Iran. At the time, Levinson was working as a private intelligence investigator and had contracts with the CIA.
The U.S. government initially denied that Levinson was working with the CIA and instead claimed he was in Iran working on a private investigation involving a cigarette smuggling ring. The Iranian government initially denied having Levinson in custody.
The Iranian regime is believed to have been using Levinson over the years as a bargaining chip in various negotiations with the U.S.
“If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today,” his family wrote.
“How those responsible in Iran could do this to a human being, while repeatedly lying to the world all this time, is incomprehensible to us,” they continued. “They kidnapped a foreign citizen and denied him any basic human rights, and his blood is on their hands.”
Levinson’s family said his body has not been returned to them for proper burial, and they are not sure if it ever will be.
“This is the very definition of cruelty,” the family said.
“Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done,” they wrote.
They thanked President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and several current and former Florida senators for trying to free Levinson.