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Trump urges Iran to hand over missing ex-FBI agent

US President Donald Trump during his speech to the nation, announcing military action against Syria for the recent apparent gas attack on its civilians, at the White House, in Washington, US on 13 April 2018 [Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images]
US President Donald Trump at the White House, in Washington, US on 13 April 2018 [Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images]

US President Donald Trump has urged Iran to turn over a former FBI agent who went missing in the country during an unauthorised CIA mission in 2007, offering a reward of up to $20 million for any information regarding the agent’s disapearance.

Trump made the call for Iran to hand over Robert Levinson yesterday on Twitter, saying that “If Iran is able to turn over to the U.S. kidnapped former FBI Agent Robert A. Levinson, who has been missing in Iran for 12 years, it would be a very positive step.”

Trump’s call to return Levinson comes after Tehran yesterday stated that there is indeed an open Revolutionary Court case mentioning that he “was a missing person”, but denied reports that he was being prosecuted for any crime and that he was kidnapped by the authorities, claiming that it has no knowledge of his location.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told journalists that Levinson “has no judicial or criminal case in any Islamic Republic of Iran court whatsoever,” adding that “It is normal that a case is opened like it’s done for any missing people anywhere in Iran.”

READ: Iran claims to have found a new oilfield with 53 bln barrels of crude

The revival of the Levinson case comes after years of uncertainty over the former agent’s disappearance, with the US first saying that he was working for a private firm on his trip to Iran before it was revelaed in 2013 that he was actually on a mission for CIA analysts who possessed no official authority to run espionage operations.

Iran’s Revolutionary Court usually handles cases inolving espionage as well as those of smuggling, blasphemy and efforts to overthrow the current Shia Islamic régime. Iranian dual nationals, and even Westerners, are often tried and convicted in closed trials within these courts.

Trump also linked the Levinson case with the country’s recent decision to reduce its adherance to the 2015 nuclear deal, adding to his tweet that “At the same time, upon information & belief, Iran is, & has been, enriching uranium. THAT WOULD BE A VERY BAD STEP!”

READ: Iran lays down cornerstone of new nuclear plant

The Islamic Republic has recently  decided to inject uranium gas into centrifuges at its underground Fordow nuclear facility as part of a move to scale back its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal. The country has been debating on those commitments since the US’ withdrawal from the pact and the re-imposition of sanctions on the country, which have resulted in a spiral of increasingly tense relations between the Islamic Republic and the US and EU in particular.

Such a move puts the country in direct opposition to the US and its allies both in Europe and the Middle East, and in response, the US has imposed new sanctions on the Islamic Republic and  promised to deploy thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia to monitor the Iranian threat, while Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei has renewed the country’s ban on negotiating with the US.

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