Sunday 17 November 2019

Iran acknowledges 'ongoing' case on missing FBI agent Robert Levinson

Robert Levinson went missing in Iran in March 2007
Robert Levinson went missing in Iran in March 2007

Jon Gambrell

IRAN has acknowledged for the first time that it has an open case before its Revolutionary Court over the 2007 disappearance of a former FBI agent during an unauthorised CIA mission, renewing questions over what happened to him.

In a filing to the United Nations, Iran said the case over Robert Levinson is "ongoing".

It is not immediately clear how long the case has been open, nor the circumstances which triggered it.

However, it comes amid a renewed push to find Mr Levinson, with an offer of $20 million for information from the Trump administration amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US over Tehran's collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

That sum is in addition to $five million earlier offered by the FBI.

The Associated Press has obtained the text of Iran's filing to the UN's Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

It read: "According to the last statement of Tehran's Justice Department, Mr Robert Alan Levinson has an ongoing case in the Public Prosecution and Revolutionary Court of Tehran."

Iran's Revolutionary Court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government.

Westerners and Iranian dual nationals with ties to the West often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.

Iran's mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment and its state media has not acknowledged the case.

The Washington Post first reported on the ongoing case.

Mr Levinson disappeared from Iran's Kish Island on March 9 2007.

For years, US officials would only say that Mr Levinson, a meticulous FBI investigator credited with busting Russian and Italian mobsters, was working for a private firm on his trip.

In December 2013, the AP revealed Mr Levinson in fact had been on a mission for CIA analysts who had no authority to run spy operations.

Mr Levinson's family had received a $2.5 million annuity from the CIA in order to stop a lawsuit revealing details of his work, while the agency forced out three veteran analysts and disciplined seven others.

Since his disappearance, the only photos and video of Mr Levinson emerged in 2010 and 2011. He appeared gaunt and bearded with long hair, and was wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to those worn by detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The video, with a Pashtun wedding song popular in Afghanistan playing in the background, showed Mr Levinson complaining of poor health.

Rumours about him have circulated for years, with one account claiming he was locked up in a Tehran prison run by Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, and US officials suggesting he may not be in Iran at all.

Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive living in Iran who is wanted for the assassination of a former Iranian diplomat in Maryland in 1980, is the last known person to have seen Mr Levinson before his disappearance.

Iran has offered a series of contradictory statements about Mr Levinson in the time since.

Officials asked the UN group to close its investigation into Mr Levinson in February, saying "no proof has been presented by the claimant in this case to prove the presence of the aforesaid in Iran's detention centres".

PA Media

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