President Trump announced Thursday that Iran has released US Navy veteran Michael White after detaining him for almost two years.
White, 48, was detained in July 2018 after reportedly visiting a woman in the Iranian city of Mashhad. He received a 10-year sentence for crimes including insulting Iran’s theocratic leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“I am to happy announce that Navy Veteran, Michael White, who has been detained by Iran for 683 days, is on a Swiss plane that just left Iranian Airspace,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
He continued: “We expect him to be home with his family in America very soon. I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas! Thank you Switzerland for your great assistance.”
White finished throat cancer treatment shortly before he arrived in Iran and there was significant concern for his health. He reportedly contracted COVID-19 while in prison.
In a statement, White’s mother, Joanne White, wrote that she was “incredibly grateful” to the Trump administration and the State Department, as well as Swiss diplomats who worked on the case.
His mother also thanked former New Mexico’s Democratic former Gov. Bill Richardson for “repeatedly raising Michael’s case with Iranian officials and delivering my personal pleas,” and TV host Montel Williams. White wrote that she was represented for free by attorney Mark Zaid, one of the lawyers for the whistleblower who sparked Trump’s impeachment.
“My prayers are with the Namazi and Tahbaz families and the families of so many other wrongfully detained Americans around the world,” Joanne White wrote, referring to detained US citizens Baquer and Siamak Namazi and Morad Tahbaz.
As president, Trump has focused heavily on winning the freedom of US citizens held overseas by authoritarian governments, including Egypt, North Korea, Turkey and Venezuela. He elevated his administration’s former chief hostage negotiator, Robert O’Brien, to be his national security adviser last year.
Details of negotiations behind White’s release were not immediately clear. On Tuesday the US returned to Iran scientist Sirous Asgari, who was charged with but acquitted of stealing trade secrets in violation of US sanctions.
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