Iran media, the "secret detention" and Levinson's death in Iran regime custody
Robert Levinson's family posted on social media that “We received received information from US officials that has led both them and us to conclude that our wonderful husband and father died while in Iranian custody.” His death apparently was unconnected to the spread of coronavirus in Iran over the last two months.
The US has been increasing pressure on Iran regarding retired FBI special agent Levinson. He was kidnapped on Kish island in 2007. The FBI noted on March 9: "Today marks the 13th anniversary of the abduction of Robert A. 'Bob' Levinson from Kish Island, Iran. Bob Levinson was abducted on March 9, 2007, and is the longest-held hostage in U.S. history. Tomorrow, Mr. Levinson will turn 72 years old. Bob served his country for 28 years, including 22 years as an FBI special agent. This anniversary is another opportunity for the leadership of the government of Iran to finally return Bob home to his family."
Now onMarch 26 the family noted: “It is impossible to describe our pain. Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known,” wrote the family in the heartwrenching letter. “If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today. It has been 13 years waiting for answer.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other US administration members have pushed for his release. Last November Pompeo said "The Trump administration has made clear that the regime in Iran must release all missing and wrongfully detained Americans, including Robert Levinson, Xiyue Wang, Siamak Namazi, and others...We will not rest until they are reunited with their families." Richard Grenell also wrote "Today marks 13 years since @HelpBobLevinson went missing in Iran. Bob is the longest held US hostage. Every American should know his name. Every American should pray for his amazing family. We must bring Bob home. Iran is responsible."
What did Iranians know?
After US sources reported his death the Iranian media also reported it in Farsi. Writing of Levinson (رابرت لوینسون), Fars News says "Former CIA operative Robert Levinson's family said in a statement that the US government had concluded that Levinson had died in Iranian prisons. They say we do not know when and how he died, but his death is related to coronary conditions." Other voices say his death was announced now to prevent the release of money for Iran. Iran has been asking for sanctions relief amid the pandemic. EU High Representative Josep Borrell and others seem to be softening their views on Iran and sanctions and Pakistan's leader has called for helping Iran.
His death is being discussed in Farsi media. Of more interest than just the reports are claims that his death was reported several days ago. A mysterious tweet posted on March 19 appears to show information about his detention relating to older tweets from November. But in this accounting he was still alive. His name was known in Farsi and from US based Farsi accounts noting there were $5 and $20 million rewards to find him. According to accounts in November he was reported to be alive at that time, around the same time of US media reports. But why did one social media user subsequently delete a more recent tweet that used the hashtag (#رابرت_لوینسون) about this case? Was it only part of some rumors about him being kept in a "secret detention" facility?
This facility was given the name: Ministry of Intelligence extra security detention center (بازداشتگاه فوق امنیتی وزارت اطلاعات نگهداری ). This term (بازداشتگاه فوق امنیتی ) appears for Ahwaz detainees, and other uses. A location in Tehran is even provided (بازداشتگاه فوق امنیتی واجا در تهران-جنب اتوبان امام علی ).
An account of a detention center that may be the same or similar was found from 2012. We provide a full paragraph in Farsi about it:
این بازداشتگاه آنقدر مخوف و فاقد قانون و امکانات می باشد که فقط افراد شاغل و دارای اختیارات و مدارج عالیرتبه در امور اداره آن دخالت کرده و اجازه بازدید از آنجا را دارند. شنیده شده است که در موردی خاص حتی رئیس دادگستری کل استان تهران "علیزاده" در سال ٨۴ آنرا در لیست بازداشتگاه های امنیتی فوق سری قرار داده است و حتی در آن زمان سپاه به خود او اجازه بازدید از این بازداشتگاه را نداده است . این بازداشتگاه توسط سازمان حفاظت اطلاعات سپاه پاسداران اداره می شود و تمام جرائم خاص از جمله مالی و امنیتی و جاسوسی واقع شده در میان پرسنل سپاه پاسداران در آن رسیدگی و تکمیل پرونده می شود. با دستور موکد رهبری در خصوص دخالت حفاظت سپاه در امنیت تهران بعد از واقعه تیرماه ۱٣۷٨ زندان ۵۹ در جرگه زندان هایی قرار گرفت که محل شکنجه و اختفاء و پرونده سازی علیه اغلب دانشجویان و فعالان سیاسی و حقوق بشر مخالف نظام می باشد.
The following translation:
The detention center is so dreadful and lacking in law and facilities that only those with a high degree of authority and authority can interfere in its affairs and are allowed to visit it. It has been heard that in one particular case, even the head of the Justice Department of Tehran's "Alizadeh" District has been listed on the list of secret security detention facilities in the past year, and even at that time the IRGC has not allowed him to visit the detention center. The detention center is run by the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Agency, and all special crimes, including financial, security and espionage, among the IRGC personnel, are being investigated and completed. Under the leadership's strong command of the IRGC to intervene in Tehran's security after the July 6, 2008, prison, the jirga was placed in prisons where torture and abduction and prosecution were opposed by most students and political activists and human rights activists.
The story of the old tweets continues to be a mystery.