The Treasury Department says it knows the Iranian intelligence agents who kidnapped former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who died in their custody. U.S. officials announced Monday that two members of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) would be punished for their alleged role in Levinson’s kidnapping and detention.
“Senior Iranian officials authorized Levinson’s kidnapping and detention and launched a campaign of disinformation to deflect blame from the Iranian regime,” the statement said.
The Treasury Department has identified Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai as senior Iranian intelligence officials involved in Levinson’s kidnapping and disappearance. Baseri is said to be a “high-ranking MOIS officer involved in counterintelligence activities inside and outside Iran” who “worked directly with intelligence agents from other countries in order to harm American interests”, according to the Treasury statement. Khazai is a “senior member of the MONTH” who has reportedly worked with the Iranian news program in foreign countries.
In a statement issued alongside the designation of the sanctions, FBI Director Christopher Wray accused Iran of lying about its role in Levinson’s disappearance in 2007. “The Iranian government is committed to providing a assistance in getting Bob Levinson home, but he never followed through. The truth is that Iranian intelligence agents – with the approval of senior Iranian officials – were involved in the kidnapping and detention of Bob.
Levinson, a former FBI agent, flew to Kish Island off the southern coast of Iran while ostensibly pursuing an investigation into counterfeit cigarettes on behalf of a tobacco company during a meeting with Dawud Salahuddin. Salahuddin, an American convert to Islam, fled to Iran after killing an Iranian diplomat in the Shah-era government who became a dissident.
U.S. law enforcement officials contacted Salahuddin after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in an attempt to find out more about global terrorism and entered into a roundabout dialogue, in which Salahuddin spoke discussed the possibility of returning to the United States and facing criminal charges.
As the AP later reported, Levinson’s cigarette counterfeit investigation was a cover for his work as an entrepreneur at the CIA, and his meeting with Salahuddin was part of an attempt to transform him as an informant for the agency. Levinson disappeared after the reunion, only to surface in proof of life videos and a photograph received in 2010 and 2011.
In the footage, a gaunt Levinson pleads for the US government’s help to “meet the demands of the group that has held me back for three and a half years” without mentioning the “group” that is holding him or his whereabouts. In the following photos, Levinson appeared in an orange prison jumpsuit with “Help Me” and “Why You Can’t Help Me” signs printed on them.
Levinson’s family conducted a 13-year search for him until the Trump administration told family members in 2020 that intelligence indicated Levinson was likely dead in Iranian custody at some point before the pandemic of COVID-19, The New York Times reported.
Iran has denied Levinson’s detention or any connection to Levinson’s disappearance.
#Robert #Levinsons #Iranian #kidnappers #named #Mohammad #Baseri #Ahmad #Khazai #punished