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By Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran – A US Navy veteran detained in Iran in July is being held in connection with a "private complaint" More news agency reported on Friday.
Michael White, 46, has been imprisoned since July and is the first known American to be imprisoned in Iran since the presidency of Donald Trump. His family says he traveled to Iran to visit his girlfriend he met online and was arbitrarily detained.
The Friday report quoted Prosecutor Gholamali Sadeghi as saying that the case is still being "investigated" without further elaboration. He confirmed no reports that the man is being taken to safety. Under Iranian law, a private complaint would relate to allegations made by a citizen, not to the state.
Trump has pursued a maximalist campaign against Tehran involving the withdrawal of its nuclear deal with the world powers. Iran has arrested Westerners and dual nationals in the past to use them as a lever for negotiations.
Joanne White, the mother of the detainee, made a statement earlier this month calling on the Trump administration to obtain his release. She said he was undergoing cancer treatment, and feared that he would not survive prolonged imprisonment.
Michael White worked as a cook for the Navy and left the service a decade ago, a spokesman for the family said, claiming that White is not a spy and has never been one. Spokesman Jonathan Franks said White recently worked as a janitor.
At least four other well-known American citizens are being held in Iran.
Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father Baquer are both serving a 10-year sentence for espionage. The Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife Afarin Neyssari were sentenced to 27 and 16 years respectively. Chinese-American PhD student Xiyue Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "infiltrating" the country during his Ph.D. thesis on the Iranian Qajar dynasty.
Iranian-American Robin Shahini released in 2017 after a hunger strike for release serving an 18-year sentence for "working with a hostile government." It is believed that Shahini is still in Iran.
Also in an Iranian jail is Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese living US citizen who campaigned for the freedom of the Internet and worked for the US government. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for espionage.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007 during an unauthorized CIA mission, is also missing. Iran says Levinson is not in the country and has no other information about him, but his family blames Teheran for his disappearance.