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Family, friends of ex-FBI agent demand his release from Iran

Coral Springs (US): The family and colleagues of a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran nine years ago while on a CIA mission expressed anger and disappointment at a rally that he wasn’t part of a January prisoner exchange with Tehran.

Several hundred people attended the rally yesterday for Robert Levinson, 67, who disappeared from Iran’s Kish Island in March 2007.

A 2013 Associated Press investigation revealed that the married father of seven was working for the CIA on an unauthorised intelligence-gathering mission to glean information about Iran’s nuclear program.

If Levinson remains alive, he has been held captive longer than any American longer than then-AP journalist Terry Anderson, who was held more than six years in Beirut in the 1980s.

Unlike Anderson, Levinson’s whereabouts and captors remain a mystery. US officials believe the Iranian government was behind his disappearance. It has denied that.

The case drew renewed attention in January when Levinson was not part of a prisoner swap between the US and Iranian governments that freed four other Americans who had been in Iran’s custody.

Levinson’s family insists he is still alive, even with health issues including diabetes, gout and high blood pressure. They last received video and photos of him about five years ago.

Stephanie Levinson Curry, his second-oldest child, said her autistic 9-year-old son Ryan cried for days when the other American captives were released, but not his grandfather.

The rally’s stage was decorated with nine chained and padlocked glass cookie jars filled with yellow rocks, each one representing a day Levinson has been held captive. The crowd held yellow signs showing the social media hashtag “whataboutbob.”

“Bob Levinson has been deprived of being a grandfather, a job that he would love so much,” Curry said. “We worry all the time about what he is thinking while he is alone in his cell.

Even prisoners in jail get to see their families, write them letters and call them. Bob Levinson has none of that.” Retired FBI agent Ellen Glasser harshly criticized the Obama administration for not demanding that Iran release Levinson or, at least, turn over information about his whereabouts.

The FBI says it still investigates every lead and remains committed to finding Levinson. A USD 5 million reward for information leading to his whereabouts remains in effect.

“The failure to push publicly and hard for answers about Bob was an outrage,” Glasser said. “A rare opportunity was squandered when we had the most possible leverage to bring him home.