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Blinken calls on Iran to answer for Levinson

Blinken calls on Iran to answer for Levinson
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenThe US must help Afghans who have helped us Biden, Putin begin high-stakes summit in Geneva Democrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene MORE is calling on the Iranian government to provide “credible answers” surrounding the abduction and likely death of former FBI agent Robert Levinson on the 14th anniversary of his disappearance. 

In a statement Tuesday, the secretary said Levinson’s “case is not closed” and called on the Iranian government to release all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in the country.

“We call on the Iranian government to provide credible answers to what happened to Bob Levinson and to immediately and safely release all U.S. citizens who are unjustly held captive in Iran,” the secretary said. “The abhorrent act of unjust detentions for political gain must cease immediately.”

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The Levinson family said in March last year that Robert Levinson had likely died in Iranian custody based on information from former Trump administration officials. He is believed to be the longest held-hostage in U.S. history since disappearing off Kish Island off the coast of Iran in 2007, although Iran has long denied it has any knowledge of Levinson’s fate. 

In December, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on two officials in Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security believed to be involved in Levinson’s abduction, detention and probable death. 

Congress also passed the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, aimed at strengthening and streamlining government resources for returning Americans unjustly detained or taken hostage abroad, including making permanent the position of special envoy for hostage affairs. 

Blinken said he spoke with the Levinson family ahead of the anniversary of Levinson's disappearance and praised them for their dedication to pushing for the return of all Americans held abroad. 

“Bob’s family has inspired the United States to partner with the families of every U.S. hostage and detainee held captive abroad,” he said. 

The statement was echoed by White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden, Putin begin high-stakes summit in Geneva Bishops to debate banning communion for president Lawmakers urge Biden to be tough on cybersecurity during summit with Putin MORE, who said the administration “will continue to demand answers and to hold Iran accountable for his abduction, detention, and probable death.”

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She added,“We will not relent until all of our citizens who continue to be wrongfully detained in Iran and around the world, are returned to their families.”

The Levinson family released a statement emphasizing the need for Iran to be held accountable. 

"Fourteen years ago today was the last time Bob Levinson saw freedom. Fourteen years ago today, he was cruelly taken away from everyone he knows and loves, and held with no basic human rights whatsoever," the statement read.

"Today we are still no closer to finding answers. Iran has stonewalled all efforts to find out what exactly happened to Bob Levinson and coldly denies any responsibility."

They further called on the Biden administration to isolate Iran from the international community until it answers for Levinson's disappearance.

"We urge the Biden administration - the fourth presidential administration charged with holding Iran accountable - to make it clear to the Iranian regime that there will be no path to taking a seat at the table of civilized nations without resolving Bob’s case and sending him home," the statement read.

At least four other dual Iranian-Americans are being detained in Iran, including businessman and conservationist Morad Tahbaz; businessman Emad Sharghi; businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer. 

The Biden administration is working to open negotiations with Iran over efforts to rein in its nuclear program and prevent it from being able to build a nuclear weapon, but has said it views the return of hostages as a separate issue. 

“We don’t want to tie their fates to an issue that is complex and that is challenging and that may be a longer-term proposition,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing last month, about separating the issue of American hostages held in Iran and the nuclear issue.