U.S. President Donald Trump warned that Iran faces "new and serious consequences" unless all "unjustly detained" American citizens are released and returned, the White House said on July 21.
Trump urged Iran to return Robert Levinson, an American former FBI agent who disappeared more than 10 years ago in Iran, businessman Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer, and "all other American citizens unjustly detained by Iran."
The statement capped a week of criticism against Tehran. On Tuesday, Washington slapped new economic sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran's "malign activities" in the Middle East undercut any "positive contributions" coming from the 2015 nuclear accord.
Those measures signaled that the Trump administration was seeking to put more pressure on Iran while keeping in place the nuclear agreement for the time being.
"For nearly forty years, Iran has used detentions and hostage taking as a tool of state policy, a practice that continues to this day with the recent sentencing of Xiyue Wang to ten years in prison," the White House said, referring to a Princeton researcher who was sentenced by Iran for spying last weekend.
"Iran is responsible for the care and well-being of every United States citizen in its custody," the White House said.
"President Trump is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned."
With reporting by Reuters and AFP