Concealing Details, Prosecutor Says US Veteran Jailed in Iran Based on “Private” Complaint
Seven months after American citizen Michael White was imprisoned in Iran, the prosecutor of the city of Mashhad told a state-funded media agency that he is being held here based on a private complaint.
“For now what’s sure and certain is that this person has a private plaintiff,” said Gholamali Sadeghi on January 25, 2019.
Speaking in an interview with the Mehr News Agency, the prosecutor did not mention White by name, referring to him instead as “that particular person” and “former American military man.”
Asked by a reporter if the case involves national security charges—routinely issued in cases involving foreign-based detainees— Sadeghi said, “The matter is under investigation.”
The 46-year-old California native has been imprisoned in Iran since late July 2018, shortly before he was due to leave the country. He had travelled there to visit his girlfriend, according to his mother, Joanne White.
A spokesman for the White family, Jonathan Franks, told the New York Times on January 25 that the family had not been able to contact White in prison and it’s unclear whether he has had Swiss consular access (the US and Iran do not maintain diplomatic relations).
“Mrs. White, on the basis of firsthand evidence provided to her by Iranian nationals who were incarcerated with Michael, believes his life-threatening cancer has recurred,” the spokesman said in a statement to the Times.
“She respectfully calls on the regime to release him immediately so he may get the care he needs,” he added.
Ivar Farhadi, an Iranian citizen who says he spent time with White in Mashhad’s Vakilabad Prison, told the Iran Wire website on January 7, 2019, that White went to Iran to pursue a romantic relationship with a woman and that he had a tumor “that might be cancerous.”
“White told Farhadi that he had come to know an Iranian girl online and had traveled to Iran three times to see her. But the third time, when White and his girlfriend were about to fly to Turkey, he was arrested at Hasheminejad Airport in Mashhad. He has been in prison since late summer 2018,” reported Iran Wire.
At least 11 dual and foreign nationals were known to be imprisoned in Iran as of January 2019.
On January 25, the US-based lawyer of Iranian American dual nationals Siamak and Baquer Namazi (son and father) announced that the country’s Supreme Court had denied their appeals against their 10-year prison sentences.
Iranian officials have been mostly mute on the reasons for White’s arrest while angrily disputing foreign media reports.
“An American citizen, named Michael White, was arrested recently in Mashhad and his arrest was immediately reported to the US government through the US Interests Section in Tehran,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters on January 9.
According to a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website:
“The spokesman then dismissed the false reports by certain US media on suboptimal conditions of White’s detention and said over the past few days, the media have sought to spread [anti-Iran] propaganda, escalate the psychological war against Iran and disseminate targeted lies about Iran through unfounded reports on the allegedly poor well-being of the American citizen and his alleged harassment in detention.”
On January 7, White’s mother told the Times that her son was expected to fly home to the US via Tehran and Dubai on July 27, 2018, and that she had only learned about her son’s imprisonment the following January:
“Ms. White said that she had filed a missing-person report afterward and that the State Department and Department of Homeland Security had been in touch with her about trying to locate him. She learned only three weeks ago from State Department officials that he was in an Iranian prison, Ms. White said.”