Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran was beaten

Michael R. White, the Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran since July, was beaten after his arrest, has no money to hire a lawyer and still does not know what charges — if any — have been filed against him, his mother said Monday.

Joanne White also said that her son, a former cancer patient, had been taken to a court at least twice and that his health was deteriorating.

A family spokesman, Jonathan Franks, said a GoFundMe page had been started to raise funds for Mr. White’s legal representation in Iran.

Ms. White learned of her son’s travails after diplomats from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran visited him on Feb. 6 at the prison where he has been held, in the northeast city of Mashhad. The Swiss Embassy represents American interests in Iran.

It was the first time the Swiss had been able to see Mr. White since he was seized in Mashhad last July and taken to Vakilabad Prison, after having visited a person his family has described as an Iranian girlfriend. He has still not been able to communicate directly with his family.

Mr. White, 47, of Imperial Beach, Calif., served in the Navy for 13 years. He is the first American to be incarcerated in Iran since President Trump took office in 2017, adding a complication to what already was a severely strained relationship between the United States and Iran.

He is one of at least four Americans known to be held in Iran, where the government has regarded the United States as its top enemy since the Islamic revolution that overthrew the shah 40 years ago.

“Over the past few weeks,” Ms. White said, “I’ve learned that Mike was badly beaten when he was arrested and that he has been taken to court at least twice for proceedings in Farsi that he couldn’t understand. My son is not well. His health is deteriorating, and I want him back so I can get him the care he badly needs.”

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s United Nations Mission, confirmed in an email that the Swiss had met with Mr. White and that another meeting was planned in “coming days.”

Mr. Miryousefi also said that Iran’s judiciary had provided medicine needed by Mr. White, despite increased prices caused by American sanctions.

“We can assuredly say that Mr. White is being treated humanely and in the best possible conditions given the criminal complaint against him,” he said. “We also hope, along with his family, that his case is speedily adjudicated by the judiciary that is in charge.”

Iranian officials have previously said Mr. White’s imprisonment in Mashhad was a response to a complaint by an “individual plaintiff,” whom they have not identified. They have also said he was under investigation for unspecified security charges.

Ms. White said she was compelled to resort to GoFundMe because her son had no money. “Like most military families, it’s hard for us to ask for help like this, but I am a widow on a fixed income,” she said.

Mr. Franks, the family spokesman, said money raised would be transmitted to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran through the State Department for use in hiring an Iranian lawyer.

He said some of the funds might be disbursed “to purchase extra food for Mike and other items, and also to make it possible for him to contact the outside world if and when the restrictions on him doing so are removed.”

While the Trump administration has successfully extricated Americans held in North Korea, Egypt and — most recently — Yemen, there has been no obvious progress in securing the release of Americans known to be held in Iran.

They include Siamak and Baquer Namazi, an Iranian-American father and son, and Xiyue Wang, a Chinese-American graduate student at Princeton University. Another American, Robert Levinson, has been missing in Iran since 2007.

Relatives of those Americans and of a Lebanese permanent resident of the United States, Nizar Zakka, who has been held in Iran since 2015, are scheduled to testify on Wednesday before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in Washington.

Source » nytimes

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