Iran is releasing a U.S. Navy veteran who has been detained in the country for almost two years.
Michael White, who was detained by Iranian authorities in July 2018 for insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be released as part of a prisoner swap for an Iranian-American doctor prosecuted in the U.S., officials told the Associated Press on Thursday.
White was originally in Iran visiting a woman he was in a romantic relationship with. He was convicted of and sentenced to a decade in prison.
U.S. State Department’s Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, will be accompanying White on his flight back to the U.S. Hook will meet White in Switzerland, whose government has helped facilitate negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over the past four months.
“Michael White’s a pretty tough guy. He’s a cancer survivor. He has now survived two years in Iranian prison where he was beaten in prison. He then contracted in COVID and survived,” Hook said, according to Fox News. “The Iranian regime has a history of using Americans as political pawns.”
President Donald Trump confirmed White’s released in a tweet Thursday morning.
“I am to happy announce that Navy Veteran, Michael White, who has been detained by Iran for 683 days, is on a Swiss plane that just left Iranian Airspace. We expect him to be home with his family in America very soon,” he said. “I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas! Thank you Switzerland for your great assistance.”
….I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas! Thank you Switzerland for your great assistance.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2020
“I am blessed to announce that the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home,” White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement.
— Jonathan Franks (@jonfranks) June 4, 2020
White was released in a deal with Iran that also released Iranian-American doctor Majid Taheri. Taheri was released on Thursday after serving 16 months in prison for violating US sanctions on Iran.