10 years gone: No word of ex-FBI man lost in Iran on CIA job

2017-03-08 17:57
In this 2016 photo, supporters gather during a rally in Coral Springs for Robert Levinson. (Mike Stocker, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File)

In this 2016 photo, supporters gather during a rally in Coral Springs for Robert Levinson. (Mike Stocker, South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File)

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Dubai - Ten years after a former FBI agent working on an unauthorised CIA mission disappeared in Iran, his family hopes US President Donald Trump will do something America's last two presidents have been unable to achieve: Finally bring him home.

Robert Levinson's family told The Associated Press this week that Trump's background as a deal-making businessman and his harder line on Iran could be an asset in finally determining what happened to the investigator, whose 69th birthday is on Friday.

They described the heartbreak of seeing other American prisoners in Iran freed while the mystery surrounding his disappearance remains. They also acknowledged the challenge of keeping his case in the public eye, as he now has been held captive longer than any American in history, if he remains alive.

"We believe people can survive 10 years under any circumstances. In the worst places, people survive. We know Bob is alive," his wife, Christine Levinson, told the AP. "Everyone else has gotten out of Iran, but Bob has been left behind every single time. It's now time for him to be returned home to his family."

Levinson disappeared from Iran's Kish Island on March 9  2007. For years, US officials would only say that 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 Levinson in fact had been on a mission for CIA analysts who had no authority to run spy operations. Levinson's family had received a $2.5m 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 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 Levinson complaining of poor health. Levinson's family believes his diabetes and high blood pressure could be under control with his weight loss.

"I'm not as worried about his health," his son, Dan Levinson, said. "I understand people thinking it being over 10 years and fearing the worst, but we don't believe that."

The FBI now offers a $5m million reward for information leading to Levinson's safe recovery and return.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Monday that the Trump administration was in contact with Levinson's family and said "we continue to hold out hope" that he could be safely returned from Iran.

Read more on:    cia  |  fbi  |  us  |  iran

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