When five U.S. hostages were returned from Iran at the time of the implementation of the nuclear deal in January, the longest-held hostage in U.S. history was not among them.
With Iran and its history of hostage-taking in the headlines again, the family of former FBI agent Bob Levinson released an open letter to Iran’s supreme leader asking that he be allowed to come home.
Levinson went missing off the coast of Iran in March 2007 while working as a private investigator. His family later received images of him in captivity, though the Iranian government has maintained they don’t know who is holding him. The last proof-of-life photos were received by the family in 2011.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dropped a hint about Levinson and basically acknowledged he was in their custody or within their grasp in a September 2012 interview with CBS. “I remember that last year Iranian and American intelligence groups had a meeting, but I haven’t followed up on it,” he said. “I thought they’d come to some kind of an agreement.”
“It is impossible to convey the depth of the darkness and the tremendous loss our family has experienced without our father, the head of our family. Our father means everything to us. He is a man of deep faith who goes out of his way to help others. He is a loving father of seven children and four grandchildren. He brings light to our world,” Levinson’s wife, Christine, wrote to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on behalf of the family.
“Yet he is being held against his will, with no contact with his family or anyone he knows for more than nine years. We are not aware of any charges that have been brought against him that would explain his being kept prisoner. We have had no contact with anyone claiming to be holding him.”
Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in February that he had “shared with the family some of the things that we planned to do, we will in fact, we are doing them” on Levinson’s case.
“I understand completely, I just met with the family recently and I completely understand tension, the feelings and the disappointment that they feel. They see people come back and Bob is not among them,” Kerry said. “And they don’t have answers yet, but we have put a process in place as part of the actual agreement that we reached, whereby he is very much front and center in terms of our following through to trace every lead there is and to be personally engaged.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that there was no update “in terms of the conversations that we have had with the Iranians about that.”
“What we have indicated as a part of that agreement that secured the release of five Americans who are unjustly detained in Iran, is Iran made a specific commitment to cooperate with our efforts and to share information with the United States that could potentially lead to the rescue of Mr. Levinson,” Earnest said. “But I’m not able to speak to the status of those ongoing talks.”
Mrs. Levinson told the ayatollah that the family asks “a simple humanitarian request involving an individual life, to you who are a father, that you help us find our father, Bob Levinson, so he may return to us and live the rest of his life in peace.”
“His health is fragile, as he suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. Our sole desire for whatever time he has left on Earth is that he be surrounded by those who love him,” she continued.
“We see in your writings and speeches, especially to families and young people, that you regularly call for compassion, truth and justice. It is in this spirit that we reach out to you as we are still awaiting answers as to what happened to him. Your Excellency, you undoubtedly agree with us that not having any information about our father’s destiny while we are still awaiting with hope to find him, and never having had the opportunity in nine years to communicate with him, and his inability to hear the voice of his wife, our mother, and above all, being held as a prisoner without the benefit of any legal advocacy, all fall short of humanity, justice, Islamic compassion and the lessons you teach.”
Christine Levinson stressed that the family believes “granting our request is within your power.”
Levinson’s son, Dan, told Fox on Wednesday that “Iran promised to do everything they could to bring my dad home and so far they haven’t followed up.”
“I went over there; they didn’t have any answers,” he said. “…We believe he’s alive, the FBI believes he’s alive, they’re tracking every lead and they said there’s no reason to believe he’s not alive. And I think the administration believes he’s alive.”