The mother of a US Navy veteran who has been held in Iran since July said Friday that she is worried her son who was undergoing cancer treatment will not survive the detainment.
Joanne White expressed her concern for the health of her son, 46-year-old Michael White who went to Iran to visit his girlfriend and was arbitrarily detained amid tensions resulting from President Donald Trump’s campaign against Tehran.
Joanne has been unable to communicate with her son who first connected with his Iranian partner online, and wants both the United States and Iran governments to stop using her sick son in their political battle.
‘She’s very worried that’s he’s not going to make it,’ family spokesman Jonathan Franks told The Associated Press.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the concerned parent ‘urged all parties to avoid making her son a pawn in the political standoff between the two countries’.
Joanne White, the mother of a U.S. Navy veteran Michael White is begging for his release from prison in Iran because he needs to continue cancer treatment
The 46-year-old has been held there since July when he went to visit his girlfriend in the country for approximately the fifth or sixth time
He is the first American known to be detained under Trump’s administration.
It came after Trump undid the work of Barack Obama and pulled out of the nuclear deal with world powers and re-imposed sanctions that hit their economy hard.
The worsening ties could be heard in remarks Wednesday by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who previously has told Trump he ‘cannot do a damn thing’ to stop Iran.
‘Some US officials pretend that they are mad,’ Khamenei said. ‘Of course I don’t agree with that, but they are first-class idiots.’
And this week Mike Pompeo has been meeting with leaders across the Middle East and took new aim at Iran with a speech in Cairo on how ‘radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology’.
The US Secretary of State then met with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, accompanied by US Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook.
It was in the United Arab Emirates capital where White was supposed have a layover on his way home to California in July but he never boarded the flight.
The family asked for the US government to make the case a priority.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been meeting with leaders across the Middle East as President Donald Trump continues his campaign against Iran
Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (C-R) spoke with Pompeo (C-L), who was accompanied by US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook (L). It’s was in the UAE capital where White was supposed to fly to in July.
WSJ reported spokesman Franks said: ‘Joanne White wants her son back, and she’s gravely concerned that he will succumb to his medical issues in prison. Michael has no part in the ongoing geopolitical dispute between the United States and Iran.’
The 13-year vet’s family complained that Mr White has not had access to consular services through neutral Switzerland which serves as a go-between in the absence of diplomatic relations in the US and Iran.
Mr White’s family alleged he had been ‘refused access to the ‘specialized medical care he needs’ for his neck tumor and asthma.
Iran Wire first reported Mr White had been detained since in July 2018 on Monday when source said he met White at Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad in October. Mashhad is about 95 kilometers (60 miles) east of Tehran, Iran’s capital.
Then the semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, confirmed the news Wednesday.
But a spokesperson said the US government was fully aware of what was going on from the beginning, although they did not confirm whether he was detained last summer.
Iran is believed to have detained him on suspicion of spying but his mother denied it, saying he left the Navy a decade ago and was a cook. She asked the US to make his case a priority
‘An American citizen was arrested in the city of Mashhad some time ago and his case was conveyed to the US administration on the first days,’ a Foreign Ministry spokesman said about the man’s incarceration.
The Islamic Republic News Agency said White’s case is going through the legal process and officials will make a statement at the appropriate time, but denied he had been poorly treated, adding: ‘These sorts of reports are lies and improper and are seriously rejected.’
Mr White’s mother said she wants no part in the geopolitical climate between the US and Iran and says her son is being used as a pawn
The family said Michael worked as a cook for the Navy and left the service about a decade ago. Denying he’s a spy or that he has never been one, the Whites’ rep revealed he recently worked as a janitor.
Although the circumstances of White’s detention remain unclear, Iran in the past has used its detention of Westerners and dual nationals as leverage in negotiations.
There are four other known American citizens being held in Iran.
Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province under the US-backed shah, are both serving 10-year sentences on espionage charges.
Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively.
Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly ‘infiltrating’ the country while doing doctoral research on Iran’s Qajar dynasty.
Chinese-American graduate Xiyue Wang (left) was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly ‘infiltrating’ and Iranian-American Siamak Namazi (right) received the same on espionage charges
A billboard promising a reward for information leading to the recovery of US FBI ex-agent Robert Levinson, in Herat, near the Iranian border, in Afghanistan, April 2012. He went missing in 2007
Iranian-American Robin Shahini was released on bail in 2017 after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for ‘collaboration with a hostile government.’ A lawsuit filed on his behalf in U.S. District Court in Washington says he’s since returned to America.
Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a US permanent resident from Lebanon who advocated for internet freedom and has done work for the US government. He was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, though his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance. Tehran now says it has no information about him.
Others held with Western ties include Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the ‘soft toppling’ of Iran’s government while traveling with her young daughter.
As pressure mounts in Britain for her release, Iranian state television this week aired footage of her arrest at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.