Lawyer: US Navy veteran held in Iran sentenced to 10 years, convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader

In this 2018 photograph released by lawyer Mark Zaid, Michael R. White, right, is seen with his mother, Joanne White, left. White, a U.S. Navy veteran from California, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran, his lawyer said Saturday, March 16, 2019, becoming the first American known to be imprisoned there since President Donald Trump took office. (White family via AP)

By JON GAMBRELL,  Associated Press  DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) 03/16 — A U.S. Navy veteran from California has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran, his lawyer said Saturday, becoming the first American known to be imprisoned there since President Donald Trump took office.

Though the case against Michael R. White remains unclear, it comes as Trump has taken a hard-line approach to Iran by pulling the U.S. out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran, which in the past has used its detention of Westerners and dual nationals as leverage in negotiations, has yet to report on White’s sentence in state-controlled media. Its mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Obviously the concern is that the Iranians are using this as a tool against the United States, given the other individuals who are in custody,” Washington-based lawyer Mark Zaid told The Associated Press.

White’s arrest was first reported by IranWire, an online news service run by Iranian expatriates, which interviewed a former Iranian prisoner who said he met White at Vakilabad Prison in the northeastern city of Mashhad in October.

In the time since, White has been convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information online, Zaid said. He said the information surrounding the case remained vague. He learned of the sentence from the U.S. State Department, which in turn learned of it from the Swiss government, which looks after American interests in Iran.

The State Department said late Saturday that it was “aware of the detention of a U.S. citizen in Iran.”

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad,” it said, without elaborating on the case.

The New York Times first reported White’s 10-year sentence.

White’s mother, Joanne White, had told the Times that her son, who lives in Imperial Beach, California, went to Iran to see a woman she described as his girlfriend and had booked a July 27 flight back home to San Diego via the United Arab Emirates. She filed a missing person report with the State Department after he did not board the flight. She added that he had been undergoing treatment for a neck tumor and has asthma.

White worked as a cook in the U.S. Navy and left the service about a decade ago.

Zaid said Saturday that White apparently traveled to Mashhad without informing the woman in advance. It remains difficult for Americans to get visas to Iran, 40 years after the Islamic Revolution and the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis.

“That’s certainly our concern, that’s he’s being used as a pawn,” Zaid said. “But we’re more in a confused state than an aware state.”

There are three other Americans known to be held in Iran.

Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his octogenarian father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah, are both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges. Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly “infiltrating” the country while doing doctoral research on Iran’s Qajar dynasty.

Iranian-American Robin Shahini was released on bail in 2017 after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for “collaboration with a hostile government.” Shahini has since return to America and is now suing Iran in U.S. federal court.

Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.

https://www.apnews.com/d5fdcc8d92a842b69bc69a14d706f1b9

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Posted in: Courts & Trials, International Policing, Sentencing, U.S. Government

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

sixteen − six =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.