March 22 (UPI) -- The family of a CIA consultant missing for 10 years sued Iran in federal court, accusing Iran of using deception and lies to conceal his imprisonment.
The 14-page suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington on behalf of the wife and seven children of Robert A. Levinson, a retired DEA and FBI agent, private investigator, and part-time CIA consultant. Levinson traveled to Kish Island, Iran, in 2007, State Department officials said. CNN, citing Time magazine, reported that Levinson was in Iran to investigate cigarette smuggling on behalf of a client, and during his visit met with U.S. fugitive Dawud Salahuddin. Salahuddin said Iranian security officials detained him and Levinson but after the two were released, he never again saw Levinson.
In 2013, several media outlets reported Levinson was in Iran to persuade Salahuddin to become an asset to U.S. intelligence. The White House denied Levinson was a government employee when he disappeared.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Iran for its alleged role in inflicting emotional distress on the Levinson family and for falsely reporting he was kidnapped by a terrorist organization. While other suits have been filed against the Tehran government in connection with alleged hostage-taking and torture, Iranian officials have insisted since he disappeared that they know nothing about his whereabouts or what happened to him. The suit says that "Three weeks after his disappearance, an Iranian government news outlet, Press TV, announced that he had been taken into custody by Iranian security authorities but was expected to be released shortly. Despite this report, Robert Levinson was not released and the Iranian government began falsely denying any knowledge of his capture or whereabouts."
On March 9, the 10th anniversary of Levinson's disappearance, an FBI statement said in part, "Bob and the entire Levinson family are remembered every day by his FBI friends and colleagues. The FBI shares in their anguish and resolve to return their husband, father and grandfather to his family and country. Over the past decade, the FBI and our partners in the United States government have worked tirelessly to bring Bob home, and we continue to pursue every lead collected through interviews, intelligence reporting and contact with foreign governments."
U.S. law enforcement officials believe that some element of the Iranian hierarchy -- political, government or religious -- is involved in Levinson's disappearance. During his presidential campaign, President Donald Trump said he would return Levinson to the United States, but no action has thus far been taken. If still alive, he would be 69.
In a CNN interview earlier this month, Stephanie Curry, Levinson's daughter, said "We are very confident that President Trump has the deal-making skills that are necessary in order to bring him home and to take a stronger stance with Iran and demand his release."