Levinson was 58 when he traveled to Kish Island, Iran, in 2007 working as a private investigator.
The family of Robert Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago, announced Wednesday that they believe he is dead, just months after a family spokesperson told CNN they had been feeling hopeful.
"Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the US government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done".
Levinson's family said they don't know how or when he died, but only that it occurred before the global coronavirus outbreak. For years, USA officials would say only that Levinson was working independently on a private investigation.
"Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done", the family's statement said. The US initially claimed he was there on his own initiative, but in 2013, the Associated Press revealed he had been sent on a mission there by Central Intelligence Agency analysts who had no authority to run espionage operations.
Levinson is one of a number of Americans who have disappeared in arch-enemy Iran, but his case has been among the most perplexing, with his family until now insisting he was alive.
The family said it does not know when or if Levinson's body will be returned for burial.
"He was a great gentleman", he said.
"He had some rough problems prior to his detainment or capture".
The family said information US officials had received led them to conclude that he is dead. "While the investigation is ongoing, we believe that Bob Levinson may have passed away some time ago".
The most recent message, in April 2011, is the most disturbing; Levinson looks disheveled with long white hair and a shaggy beard, and he is dressed in an orange jumpsuit like those worn by United States prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. But even then, his whereabouts and fate were not known.
The Iranian government has never publicly acknowledged any role in Mr Levinson's abduction, though at the time of his disappearance a government-affiliated media outlet broadcast a story saying he was "in the hands of Iranian security forces".
Levinson's relatives said they "expect American officials, as well as officials around the world, to continue to press Iran to seek Bob's return, and to ensure those Iranian officials involved are held accountable". Although the development gave the family a burst of hope, Iran clarified that the "open case" was simply an investigation into his disappearance.
The judge's decision followed a weekslong trial of emotional testimony from Levinson's family, including each of his seven children.