WASHINGTON, DC – Months of efforts by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Commissioner Andy Khawaja to determine the whereabouts of missing and presumed imprisoned U.S. citizen Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007, have finally yielded a breakthrough. Following parallel initiatives by the White House, State Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Iranian government confirmed for the first time it has an open court case against Levinson and considers him a missing person.
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes today’s announcement that the United States Treasury has sanctioned Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani for directing “the regime’s systematic blocking of social and economic progress of the Baha’i community, a religious minority group in Iran. This includes expelling members of the Baha’i faith from universities and denying them employment.” This is the first time the Treasury Department has sanctioned an individual specifically for his role in orchestrating the persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Robert Levinson is a Jewish U.S. citizen. On March 9, 2007, Levinson, a retired FBI agent, disappeared on the Iranian island of Kish. It is likely that the government of Iran disappeared him, though Iran’s government denies knowledge of his whereabouts. In 2013, President Hassan Rouhani indicated a willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government to return Levinson to the United States. Then Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both urged the government of Iran to release Levinson, as has Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. On November 26, 2013, Levinson became the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.
WASHINGTON, DC – Andy Khawaja, Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today announced, as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, his adoption of Robert Levinson, an American of the Jewish faith who disappeared in 2007 and is believed to be held captive by the Iranian government under suspicions of espionage.