The family of Robert Levinson, the former FBI agent who disappeared in March 2007 after travelling to an island controlled by Iran, said on Wednesday it now believes Levinson died in Iranian custody, based on information from US officials.
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had not been told that Levinson was dead, but things did not look good and a lot of people thought Levinson had died.
“Today, with aching hearts, we are sharing devastating news about Robert Levinson, the head of our family,” Levinson’s family said in a posting on Facebook and a website.
“We recently received information from US officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian Custody. We don’t know when or how he died, only that it was prior to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the family said.
The family said they did not know when, or even if, Levinson’s body would be returned to them, calling it “the very definition of cruelty”.
Trump called Levinson “a gentleman” and “outstanding.” He added, in an apparent reference to what US officials had told the family: “They’ve been making the statement to the family, I believe.”
He added: “It’s not looking good; he wasn’t well for years anyway, in Iran. It’s not looking promising... we feel terribly for the family.
“It’s not looking great, but I won’t accept that he’s dead. They haven’t told us that he’s dead, but a lot of people are thinking that that’s the case.”Working as a private investigator, then
Levinson disappeared after flying from Dubai to Kish Island in the Gulf in March 2007. There he met with Daoud Salahuddin, an American Islamic militant who fled to Iran while facing charges in the murder of an Iranian Embassy official based in Washington.
Levinson, working then as a private investigator, was seeking information on alleged corruption involving the former Iranian president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and his family, said sources familiar with his work.
Months after he disappeared, US government sources acknowledged that before travelling to Kish Island, Levinson had maintained an unorthodox contractual relationship with the analytical branch of the Central Intelligence Agency. A handful of CIA officials were forced out of the agency and several more were disciplined after an internal agency investigation.
The Iranian government has never publicly acknowledged any role in Levinson’s abduction, though at the time of his disappearance a government-affiliated media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces”.
Some US investigators, at least until recently, believed Levinson was still alive, while officials at other US agencies believe he died some time ago, perhaps years ago.