Iran has denied a claim by the family of former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Levinson that he has died in custody there, saying he left the country years ago. While they did not say when he died, his family said that it had happened prior to the global coronavirus pandemic.
"We recently received information from United States officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody", his family said in the statement. "The Levinson family deserves justice, and we will continue to push for Bob's return to his loved ones".
"It's not looking promising ... we feel terribly for the family", Trump said.
"It's not looking great, but I won't accept that he's dead".
"They have not informed us that he is lifeless, however lots of people are considering that that's the case", he mentioned.
"It is impossible to describe our pain", the statement said. "Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most wonderful man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us".
"His grandchildren will never meet him".
"We do not even know when, or even when, his physique can be returned to us. Thirteen years since we last saw him or had any contact with him", Levinson's family wrote in a Facebook post. One of those freed was Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who wrote in a memoir a year ago that an Iranian source indicated Levinson, or answers to his fate, were withheld by the regime as a future bargaining chip for their interests. "He was an American hero-a true patriot, and his compassion and kindness knew no bounds", said his family.
An FBI poster showing a composite image of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, right, of how he would look like now, left (taken from the video released by his captors), in Washington during a news conference on March 6, 2012.
Levinson disappeared in 2007 while visiting Iran and working part-time for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mousavi called on Washington to make an official announcement if Levinson's death was confirmed, without "politicizing and exploiting the family's feelings". A handful of CIA officials were forced out of the agency and several more were disciplined after an internal agency investigation.
U.S. Senator Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Wednesday, "I am incredibly saddened by recent reports from the Levinson family that Bob Levinson passed on while in Iranian custody". Still, the family thanked members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. "We are so grateful for their efforts".
But Trump has disputed the claims that Mr Levinson is dead, in an unexpected turn of events.
The family experienced a surge of hope in November 2019 when the Iranian government unexpectedly responded to a United Nations query by saying that Levinson was the subject of an "open case" in Iranian Revolutionary Court.
This undated handout photo provided by the family of Robert Levinson after they received it in April 2011, shows retired-FBI agent Robert Levinson. "That would be a very bad step!" he added.