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American Navy Veteran Held In Iran Requests Humanitarian Evacuation For Treatment

Michael White of California poses with his mother Joanne in Washington, , undated
Michael White of California poses with his mother Joanne in Washington, , undated

The family of an imprisoned U.S. navy veteran in Iran who was allowed to go on a medical furlough said on Wednesday that he has coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms and called on the Iranian government to allow him to go home for medical treatment.

In a Tweeter thread on March 26, the Free Michael White campaign said since being released on furlough, White has had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 including fever, fatigue, cough and shortness of breath.

"While he has yet to receive test results, Michael was prescribed hydroxychloroquine over the weekend and was hospitalized today," the tweets said. According to the campaign White is now in a crowded war for coronavirus patients.

The tweets also said that the Governor of California, Bill Richardson, has delivered White family's request directly to senior Iranian officials for an "immediate humanitarian medical evacuation in view of his immune-compromised cancer which makes him even more vulnerable.

In what might be a gesture to Washington, Tehran allowed White to go on furlough on March 19. He is now in the custody of the embassy of Switzerland in Tehran and is not allowed to leave the country. The Swiss embassy represents U.S. interests in Iran.

The Californian navy veteran was arrested in Mashhad in July 2018 while he was visiting his girlfriend in Iran and was held in Vakil-Abad Prison before being allowed to go on furlough.

In March 2019 the Iranian Judiciary sentenced White to thirteen years in prison on alleged charges of "insulting the Supreme Leader Khamenei" and "posting a private photo publicly". The details of the charges were never made public.

"The United States will continue to work for Michael's full release, as well as the release of all wrongfully detained Americans in Iran," a State Department statement said on March 19 after White's release from prison.

The release of former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Robert Levinson was also demanded by the State Department. He disappeared in 2007 and Washington suspected Iran of abducting him but the Levinson family in a March 25 statement have said they have recently received information from U.S. officials that has led them to conclude that he died while in Iranian custody.