U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, imprisoned by the Iranian regime for over a year, was granted humanitarian parole on Thursday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He is still required to remain in Iran and is currently staying at the Swiss Embassy, which handles American diplomatic contacts with Tehran.
White, who hails from California, was given a ten-year prison sentence in March 2019 on nebulous charges, including “insulting” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Despite serious health issues, including a battle with cancer, he was held for a time at Iran’s notoriously brutal and unsanitary Evin prison.
White’s family accused the Iranian regime of giving him inadequate health care and violating his human rights. At the onset of the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, they were not even certain he was still alive.
The White family expressed gratitude on Thursday for the “interim humanitarian step” of a medical furlough, one of about 85,000 issued by Iran as the coronavirus outbreak worsened, and pressed for Michael’s freedom.
“We continue to urge them to release Michael unconditionally so that he can return to the United States to receive the advanced medical care he needs,” said a family spokesman.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said Michael White has been “wrongfully detained by the Iranian regime” and called for his full release, along with “all wrongfully detained Americans in Iran.”
“We again call on the Iranian government to immediately release on humanitarian grounds Morad Tahbaz, Baquer Namazi, and Siamak Namazi. We also ask the regime to honor the commitment it made to work with the United States for the return of Robert Levinson,” said Pompeo.
Morad Tahbaz is an American citizen, part of a group of eight environmentalists kidnapped by the Iranian regime in early 2018 and sentenced last month to ten years in prison for “colluding with the United States.” A ninth environmentalist seized in the same crackdown died under murky circumstances about a month after the arrests.
As usual, the charges against Tahbaz were vague and he received nothing a civilized nation would regard as a fair trial, but he was essentially accused of spying for visiting somewhere the Iranian government did not want him to go. The harsh sentences appear to be part of the endless power struggles between secular and theocratic factions in Iran.
Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi was denied furlough by the Iranian judiciary this week. His father Baquer, who was imprisoned with him, was granted parole but is not allowed to leave Iran. The Namazis were accused of “collaborating with a hostile power.”
Robert Levinson is the American hostage held longest by Iran, with his fate the most uncertain. A former FBI agent, he disappeared from Kish Island in Iran 12 years ago, evidently while working for the CIA. Very little firm information about his whereabouts or status has been released over the past decade.