US Navy veteran held in Iran sentenced to 10 years, lawyers say

news
Instagram via Fox News

Lawyers representing the family of an American citizen from San Diego detained in Iran said Thursday that the Navy veteran has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and for disclosing private information by posting a photo on Instagram of a woman he was visiting.


Michael White, 46, was detained in Mashhad, a religious city in eastern Iran, last July after traveling there to visit the woman. It was his third time visiting her in the Islamic Republic, said Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for his family.

White is being held in Vakilabad Prison, which is known for its executions of drug traffickers.

"The 'inappropriate' photo was of White sitting with a woman we think is his girlfriend," said Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing White's family.

White is the first U.S. citizen arrested in Iran since President Donald Trump took office. His sentencing could worsen already rocky relations with the United States.

Franks said White's family has been told he was beaten and interrogated about his naval service after his arrest, adding that White has not been able to communicate directly with his family.

The family learned of his detention in January. Diplomats from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran visited White in February, Franks said.

The United States broke off formal diplomatic relations with Iran during the 1980 hostage crisis, and Switzerland has since represented U.S. interests in Tehran.

White served 13 years in the U.S. Navy, working in aviation maintenance administration. After retiring, he attended San Diego State, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science.

Zaid said the State Department informed him and the family Monday that White was convicted in a trial that was held without prior notice. A local lawyer assigned to represent White in the court hearing, Zaid said, did not speak English.

White, a cancer survivor, has 22 days to appeal the court's actions, Zaid said.

White's family has become increasingly worried about his health and has been scrambling to raise money to hire a lawyer in Iran to represent him and gain more clarity about the charges of which he was convicted.

In addition to concerns that his cancer might re-emerge, White's family said that he suffers from asthma and that his immune system has been compromised by chemotherapy treatments.

White was detained in Mashhad after plainclothes police pulled over a taxi he was riding in around July 22, shortly before he was scheduled to return to the United States, his family says.

Several months went by before White's family learned of his whereabouts.

In February, the family said it was informed by Iranian authorities that White did not face espionage charges and that his arrest was linked to a "private complaint."

But on Monday, Mashhad's prosecutor, Gholamali Sadeghi, announced that White was convicted of crimes related to national security issues.

"None of the crimes he was convicted of are related to national security issues," Zaid said Thursday. "And White is being held separate from political prisoners."

In recent years, hard-liners in Iran's judiciary and security apparatus have increasingly targeted Iranian dual citizens and Western nationals whom they accuse of attempting to "infiltrate" the Islamic Republic. Members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have typically used these individuals as bargaining chips for future negotiations.

As of January, White was the eighth known foreigner with U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status held in Iran, according to the New York-based nonprofit Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Although Trump had said freeing Americans held overseas "is a priority" in his administration, worsening relations with Iran make negotiating their release much more difficult.

Last year Trump withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal that sought to restrict Iran's nuclear activities and imposed tough economic sanctions.

———

©2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

SEE ALSO: The Strengths And Weaknesses That Will Shape Iran's Future

WATCH NEXT: Gen. Petraeus On Shia Militias And Iran

President Donald Trump speaks during an event with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Pratt Industries, Sunday, Sept 22, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (Associated Press/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he discussed Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son in a call with Ukraine's president.

Trump's statement to reporters about his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came as the Democratic leader of a key congressional panel said the pursuit of Trump's impeachment may be the "only remedy" to the situation.

Read More Show Less
"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

Read More Show Less
(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less

"Shoots like a carbine, holsters like a pistol." That's the pitch behind the new Flux Defense system designed to transform the Army's brand new sidearm into a personal defense weapon.

Read More Show Less