Iran releases US Navy veteran Michael White

Iran has released U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who had been detained for nearly two years, his family and officials confirmed Thursday. 

“I am blessed to announce that the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home,” White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement shared by a family spokesman on Twitter.

Joanne White thanked the State Department, Swiss diplomats and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) in her statement. 

U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook flew to Zurich with a doctor to meet White and will accompany him to the U.S. aboard an American plane, officials told The Associated Press.

President Trump announced White’s release in a tweet, adding that he expects White to be in America “very soon.”

“I am to happy announce that Navy Veteran, Michael White, who has been detained by Iran for 683 days, is on a Swiss plane that just left Iranian Airspace. We expect him to be home with his family in America very soon,” Trump tweeted.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later confirmed White is returning to the U.S.

“Another American is coming home. Michael White, a U.S. Navy veteran who has been wrongfully jailed in Iran for nearly two years, has been released and is on his way back to the United States. Mr. White will soon be reunited with his family, who have missed him dearly,” Pompeo tweeted. 

Pompeo said he is “pleased the Iranian government has been constructive in this matter,” but he added that the State Department “will not rest” until every American wrongfully detained in Iran is returned home. 

Richardson said in a statement that White’s release “should have and could have been done earlier, but I am glad and relieved that Mike is on his way home to get treated and rejoin Joanne and his family.”

“COVID-19 presents countries around the world, including our own, with an unprecedented challenge. The health and wellbeing of prisoners are the responsibility of the country holding them,” Richardson added.

White’s release came shortly after an Iranian scientist, Dr. Sirous Asgari, was returned to the country after being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), CNN reports.

U.S officials denied Asgari’s return was part of a prisoner exchange for White, according to CNN.

“The United States has tried to deport Sirous Asgari since December 2019, but the Iranian government repeatedly has held up the process. As the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed today, Mr. Asgari is not and has never been a participant in any prisoner swap with Iran,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said earlier this week.

The AP reported that White’s release was predicated on another prisoner deal. His release was part of an agreement involving an Iranian-American doctor prosecuted by the Justice Department, the newswire reported. 

Details of the deal are set to be released later Thursday, according to AP.

White was detained by Iranian authorities in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with, according to AP. White was reportedly convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information online. He had been sentenced to a decade in prison.

In March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Iran to release all Americans who are being wrongfully detained in Iran amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tensions have increased between the U.S. and Iran after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Obama-era nuclear deal. Trump later ordered the killing by American forces of a top Iranian general in Iraq at the beginning of the year. 

Updated: 4:20 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Iran michael white Mike Pompeo Navy

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