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Former FBI agent Levinson dead in Iranian custody, family confirm Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Former FBI agent Levinson dead in Iranian custody, family confirm

Robert Levinson disappeared in March 2007 [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 March, 2020

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The family of a former US FBI agent who disappeared in 2007 has died in Iranian custody, according to his family.
The former FBI agent Bob Levinson, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 2007, has died in Iranian custody, his family said on Wednesday.

"We recently received information from US officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody," said a statement from Levinson's family. 

It added that it was unsure when or how he died, but that it was before the coronavirus pandemic that has hit Iran hard.

Levinson is one of a number of Americans who have disappeared in Washington's arch-enemy Iran, but his case has been among the most perplexing, with his family until now holding out hope that he remained alive.

The father of seven vanished in March 2007 in Kish, an island that has more lenient visa rules than the rest of Iran, and was said to have been investigating cigarette counterfeiting.

But The Washington Post reported in 2013 that Levinson, who had retired from the FBI, was working for the CIA and had gone on a rogue mission aimed at gathering intelligence on Iran.

The family received proof-of-life photos and a video in late 2010 and early 2011, but no news emerged after that.

His family accused the Iranian regime of "repeatedly lying to the world" about Levinson and said that the whereabouts of his body were unknown.

"Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the US government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done," the family said.

"We will spend the rest of our lives making sure of this, and the Iranian regime must know we will not be going away."

Iran has returned a number of other Americans detained in the country, often dual nationals, but has repeatedly said it did not know about Levinson. In November, the Iranian government unexpectedly responded to a United Nations query by saying that Levinson was the subject of an "open case" in Iranian Revolutionary Court.

Though the development gave the family a burst of hope, Iran at the time clarified that the "open case" was an investigation into his disappearance.


The announcement on Wednesday came just weeks after a US federal judge held Iran responsible for the kidnapping of the former FBI agent, entering a default judgement against the regime on the 13th anniversary of his disappearance.

The decision from US District Judge Timothy Kelly was a milestone moment in the family's lawsuit against Tehran, which featured wrenching testimony in Washington's federal court from each of Levinson's seven children.

"It is really important to the family that people realise what their father, their husband, has been through and what they've been through," said David McGee, a lawyer for the family. "It is a terrible ordeal."

In his 25-page ruling, Kelly found that Iran "in no uncertain terms" was responsible for Levinson's "hostage taking and torture" and entered a default judgment after the country declined to respond to the lawsuit. The family sought more than $1.5 billion in damages. Most of that amount was in punitive damages.

"He has been unable to see his children grow up, enjoy professional success, marry, and become parents themselves - as they have many times over," Kelly wrote in his judgment. "But they have not forgotten him, not by a long shot."

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