Iran says ex-FBI agent 'missing person', Trump calls for 'positive step' amid nuclear tensions

Levinson went missing in 2007 after visiting Iran on what US officials had earlier claimed was for a " private working trip"

Singaporean who 'illegally exported' radio equipment to Iran extradited to US
Representational Image.

Iran on Sunday stated that the case involving ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson who has been missing since visiting Kish Island on an unauthorized CIA mission 12 years ago has been filed under "missing person" in the recently publicised open case at the Revolutionary Court.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Levinson "has no judicial or criminal case in any Islamic Republic of Iran court whatsoever". "It is normal that a case is opened like it's done for any missing people anywhere in Iran," Mousavi was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The statement came after reports claimed that Iran had told the United Nations that a case involving Levinson was registered in which he was the subject of an ongoing criminal case. Levinson went missing in 2007 after visiting Iran on what US officials had claimed was for a working trip.

The FBI agent known for his "meticulous" investigation in Russian and Italian organized crimes, in 2013 revealed that he has been on a mission for CIA in Iran where he was involved in un-authorized spy operations. His family received a $2.5 million annuity from the intelligence agency in order to stop a lawsuit that would reveal details of his work. The CIA is reported to have let go of three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others related to the case.

Iran's national flag
Iran's national flag Reuters

During former President Barack Obama's administration, senior US officials had claimed in 2016 that Levinson had died in captivity. In January, new developments suggested that the former special agent was alive and called Iran to locate Levinson and return him back to the country, as per Reuters.

The recent UN report shed light on the federal agent who has not been seen since 2010-2011 pictures and videos that showed him with long hair and wearing orange jumpsuits similar to those worn at the US Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Iran had made "contradictory" statements about Levinson over the years and the US had reached out "through intermediaries" seeking progress in the case, a State Department official was quoted as saying to AP. While it wasn't stated who the intermediaries were, US diplomatic interests in Iran related to American detainees and "missing persons" are handled by Switzerland.


US President Donald Trump called Levinson's case a "kidnapping" on Monday and called for Iran to turn Levinson over as a "positive step" amid tensions related to the country resuming uranium enrichment. On Sunday, Iran began construction of a second nuclear reactor at its Bushehr power plant.

US-Iran relations have deteriorated over the years since the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) also known as the Iran nuclear deal last year and imposed economic and military sanctions on Iran.

The Iran Revolutionary Court is notoriously known for its closed-door trials involving espionage and cases that aims to threaten the Islamic government. Experts claim westerners and spies are tried and convicted in the court and are even later swapped with US-held Iranian prisoners in negotiations. In 2017, Trump warned Tehran and stated new and serious consequences would be imposed unless US citizens held in Iran are set free.

While the US has offered $25 million for information related to Levinson's case in Iran, several high ranking US officials including special envoy to Iran, Brian Hook, and Trump's National Security Advisor had given Levinson's case high priority during his tenure as special representative for hostage affairs. Levinson's family is currently suing Iran in the US federal court accusing the country of kidnapping him.