Michael White, a retired US Navy seaman, is shown in his military uniform in this undated image. Photo: Joanne White via AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — An Iranian court sentenced a US Navy veteran to 10 years in prison for insulting the country’s Supreme Leader and posting a private picture.
Michael White, 46, was arrested last July while visiting his girlfriend in the northeastern city of Mashhad. White’s lawyer said on Saturday that his client was sentenced to two years for insulting the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and 10 years for posting a private picture with an Iranian woman. He would serve the two sentences handed out on March 6 and March 9, concurrently.
“Michael traveled to Iran with a valid Iranian visa to visit a woman with whom he had fallen in love — his visits were solely for that purpose,” the family’s said in a statement
The dispute over Iran nuclear program is at the heart of the US government tough position towards Iran influencing judicial proceeding in both countries. Washington and Tehran agreed
to swap a number of prisoners in the aftermath of the Nuclear Deal signed in 2015.
However as President Donald Trump upped the ante by unilaterally withdrawing from the Nuclear Deal and reinstating economic sanctions, Tehran appears to have toughened its position too.
Mark Zaid, the lawyer representing the former marine cook confirmed the news to AFP in an email on Saturday. "We remain very concerned about his health as he has pre-existing medical conditions but we've been informed he appears to be in a good state at the moment," Zaid said.
White was arrested last July while visiting an Iranian woman. He served 13 years in the US Navy. He joins three other Americans imprisoned in Iran: businessman Siamak Namazi, former UNICEF diplomat Baquer Namazi, and doctorate candidate Xiyue Wang.
Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter in Tehran who spent 544 days in detention and was released as Obama administration lifted the sanction in early 2016 as part of the nuclear deal believes that there is little hope for the Americans currently imprisoned in Iran.
“I had a year and a half of my life stolen from me, my story is one that has a fairly happy ending, and I don't see that ending coming about for people currently there,” Rezaian told
US News in February.
“The reason is that there is no mechanism for communicating with the Iranian regime. When we pulled out of the nuclear deal last summer, it effectively cut all contact with that government.”
One of the Americans who have disappeared without a trace in Iran since 2007 is the former FBI agent Robert Levinson. The Iranian side claim that Levinson is not in their custody.
“After three very different presidential administrations, we are no closer to bringing Bob home than when we started,” Christine Levinson, Levinson’s wife, said during her testimony, according to The New York Times. “We have nothing.”
In January, White’s mother said in an interview that his son was mistreated by prison guards in Iran but the spokesperson for the Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied
the charges and said that the American government was informed about White’s arrest via the Swiss embassy which represents US interest in the country.