Family of Jewish ex-FBI agent sues Iran over disappearance
Lawsuit filed in Washington accuses Tehran of using deception and lies to hide role in Robert Levinson‘s imprisonment
The family of a Jewish retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran 10 years ago has filed a lawsuit in the US against Tehran, according to a Tuesday report.
Robert Levinson disappeared 10 years ago on Iran’s Kish Island. Iranian officials have refused to discuss the case, saying they are not holding him and do not know where he is.
The lawsuit, filed in Washington on behalf of Levinson, his wife Christine and their seven children, claims that the Islamic Republic used deception and lies to conceal its role in the former agent’s imprisonment and demands unspecified damages, among other things for the emotional distress caused to the family, according to The New York Times.
While American officials believe Iran was involved in Levinson’s capture and imprisonment, the Obama administration never challenged the Iranians and neither has current US President Donald Trump, the New York Times reported.
In 2015, before three other Americans held by Iran were released, Trump — then a presidential candidate — promised, “If I win the presidency, I guarantee you that those four prisoners are back in our country before I ever take office. I guarantee that.”
Earlier this month, the White House offered a $5 million reward for Levinson’s “location and safe return.”
Levinson’s family is convinced he is alive and that Iranian authorities know where he is, even as some US officials believe he died in captivity.
He was last seen in a hostage video and a series of photos made in 2010. It was not clear which organization or group was holding him.
If still alive, he would now be 69.
A 2013 Associated Press investigation found that Levinson was working for the CIA on an unauthorized intelligence-gathering mission to find information about Iran’s nuclear program when he disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island on March 9, 2007.
The investigation showed that in a breach of the most basic CIA rules, a team of analysts — with no authority to run spy operations — paid Levinson to gather intelligence from hotspots around the world, including the Middle East and Latin America.
The official story when Levinson disappeared was that he was in Iran on private business, either to investigate cigarette smuggling or to work on a book about Russian organized crime, which has a presence on Kish, a tourist island.
In fact, he was meeting a source, an American fugitive, Dawud Salahuddin, who is wanted for killing a former Iranian diplomat in Maryland in 1980. In interviews, Salahuddin has admitted killing the diplomat.
The CIA paid Levinson’s family $2.5 million to preempt a revealing lawsuit, and the agency rewrote its rules restricting how analysts can work with outsiders. Three analysts who had been working with Levinson lost their jobs.