A senior Iranian intelligence official has claimed that freed U.S. citizen Michael White was "deported" on "humanitarian grounds" after the deterioration of his health.
The director of counter-intelligence’s announcement was posted on the Islamic Republic Intelligence Ministry’s website, without naming him.
This is the first time an Iranian government official has referred to the "expulsion" of the U.S. citizen. Both governments have said negotiations led to Whit's release, and the U.S. also freed two Iranians.
Michael White, an American Navy veteran, was arrested in Iran more than two years ago and released on June 4. He flew first to Switzerland where he was met by Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative on Iran and then returned home.
Immediately after White was freed, the Swiss Foreign Ministry announced that it had "played a role" in the "negotiations" on his release.
The spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Abbas Mousavi, also confirmed that Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador at the UN had held talks with his boss, Mohammad Javad Zarif, to discuss White's release.
Repeating unproven charges that White was involved in espionage against the Islamic Republic, the unnamed Director-General claimed, that if White had died in Iran it could be used as a "news bombshell" against Iran. That was why he was freed and "expelled" from the country, he claimed.
The official also maintained that certain U.S. officials, including Hook, were "seeking to take advantage of the possible death of White" due to his "chronic illness" and fulfill their "political objectives".
The security official did not mention Michael White's illness, but in the past he had a battle with cancer and there were earlier reports suggesting that he might have contracted coronavirus.
Referring to President Donald Trump's recent conciliatory comments on White's release, the Director-General asserted that the U.S. Navy veteran's "deportation" had nothing to do with negotiations with the United States.
Trump wants to make the most of any petty issue as a platform for negotiations with Iran, he said.
"Thank you to Iran,” President Trump wrote in a tweet on Thursday, June 4, adding, "Don’t wait until after U.S. Election to make the Big deal. I’m going to win. You’ll make a better deal now!”
Immediately after speaking to White on Thursday, Trump said, "We have now brought more than forty American hostages and detainees back home since I took office. Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!"
Other senior Iranian officials have also referred to President Trump's tweets and opposed any negotiation with Washington.