“His Health is Deteriorating” Imprisoned US Navy Vet Undergoes Melanoma Operation in Iran
Imprisoned American navy veteran Michael White is in poor health after undergoing an operation to remove his melanoma in the Iranian city of Mashhad, his family’s spokesman told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“He’s in a prison in Mashhad [city] and we think his health is deteriorating,” said Jonathan Franks. “We found out from the Swiss government last week that Michael had surgery for the recurrence of cancer.”
Franks added that the family has struggled to obtain information about White since the 46-year-old resident of California was arrested in Iran in late July 2018 and taken to Vakilabad Prison after traveling to Mashhad to visit his girlfriend.
White was reportedly sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in March 2019 under two charges for allegedly insulting the country’s supreme leader and posting a private photograph on social media.
“We have real concerns about whether he’s getting adequate medical care,” said Franks. “We continue to believe it is the best-case scenario for everyone to just let Mike come home.”
But Franks acknowledged that “tensions” between the U.S. and Iran have tempered the family’s hopes for White’s swift return.
“Our point is that Mike and his family have nothing to do with tensions between the Iranian government and the American government,” Franks said. “They haven’t yet articulated a crime that he’s committed that would be prosecutable in any other country in the world. So we’re hopeful they show mercy and let him come home.”
In January 2019, the prosecutor of Mashhad Gholamali Sadeghi told a state-funded media agency that White was imprisoned based on a private complaint. “For now what’s sure and certain is that this person has a private plaintiff,” said Sadeghi.
Following White’s arrest, Persian-language media outlets reported that White had been arrested for having relations with an Iranian woman that he was not married to—a violation of Iranian law.
Iranian officials have since been quiet about White’s case while his family has been forced to seek information about him form Swiss officials who act as intermediaries in cases involving U.S. citizens held in Iran.
“We’re very concerned about his health. We’re very concerned that he’s become a pawn in somebody else’s geopolitical conflict of which he neither wants nor has any part,” Franks told CHRI. “We would like the [Trump] administration—in fact we want the Iranian government to just let him go.”
“But barring that, we would welcome the American administration to actually put some focus on Michael’s case,” added Franks. “The lack of focus on Michael’s case can be compared to the focus that was put on the rapper “A$AP Rocky” in Sweden.”
At least 14 dual and foreign nationals were imprisoned in Iran as of September 2019 according to research by CHRI including three American citizens in addition to White: Siamak Namazi, Xiyue Wang, Morad Tahbaz.
Read this article in Persian.