News & Politics

Iran Releases Navy Veteran Michael White After Iranian Professor's Repatriation

In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei talks to clerics in his Islamic thoughts class in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Iran's supreme leader on Sunday backed the government's decision to raise gasoline prices and called angry protesters who have been setting fire to public property over the hike "thugs," signaling a potential crackdown on the demonstrations. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Navy veteran Michael White has been released from detention by Iran and is on his way home.

Iran arrested White in 2018 and he was convicted and sentenced for the crime of insulting the Supreme Leader and posting personal information online. He got 10 years.

Earlier this year, Iran transferred White from prison to the Swiss embassy following a release of prisoners due to the coronavirus crisis.

His parents were overjoyed.

The Hill:

“I am blessed to announce that the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home,” White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement shared by a family spokesman on Twitter.

Joanne White thanked the State Department, Swiss diplomats and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) in her statement.

Donald Trump tweeted his pleasure as well.

White was released just days after Iranian scientist, Dr. Sirous Asgari, was finally allowed to return to Iran. Asgari was acquitted of charges that he tried to steal secrets from Case Western Reserve University. The Cleveland school had been working on a project for the U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research to create and produce anti-corrosive stainless steel.

Asgari was found not guilty in a U.S. court last November. But Iran said they didn’t want him back.

CBS:

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy Homeland Security secretary, earlier told The Associated Press that the DHS had started to try to deport Asgari on Dec. 12 following his acquittal. However, he said, Iran refused to recognize him as legitimately Iranian and provide him with a valid passport until late February.

Once Asgari received the passport, DHS made several attempts to fly him back to Iran, purchasing tickets for flights on March 10, March 18, March 23, April 1 and May 1, according to Cuccinelli. Each of those flights was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

Asgari apparently contracted COVID-19 in prison but has recovered.

As for White, his story would be ludicrous if it wasn’t so tragic.

Among the U.S. citizens held in Iran is U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, of Imperial Beach, California. White was detained in July 2018 while visiting a girlfriend in Iran. He was convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information online.

He was released from prison in March on a medical furlough that required him to remain in the country in the care of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran.

White had visited Iran several times in the past and never had any trouble. But he had the misfortune of being in the country at the height of tensions between the U.S. and Tehran. Iran, as is their practice and custom, took White hostage on trumped-up charges, hoping to get something for him.

The government is denying that White was part of a prisoner swap with Iran.

The United States has tried to deport Sirous Asgari since December 2019, but the Iranian government repeatedly has held up the process. As the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed today, Mr. Asgari is not and has never been a participant in any prisoner swap with Iran,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said earlier this week.

The AP reported that White’s release was predicated on another prisoner deal. His release was part of an agreement involving an Iranian-American doctor prosecuted by the Justice Department, the newswire reported.

This behavior by Iran is intolerable and the nations of the world should find a way to stop. Hostage-taking by nations goes back several thousand years but Iran appears to have perfected the practice.

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