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Iran frees U.S. Navy veteran after nearly two years in custody

U.S. Navy Veteran Michael White was freed from Iran Thursday, his mother, Joanne White, announced. Photo courtesy of International Observatory Human Rights/Facebook
U.S. Navy Veteran Michael White was freed from Iran Thursday, his mother, Joanne White, announced. Photo courtesy of International Observatory Human Rights/Facebook

June 4 (UPI) -- Iran on Thursday freed U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who is on his way home after nearly two years in custody, his mom said.

White, now 48, was arrested in Mashhad, Iran, in July 2018 for allegedly insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and disclosing private information by posting a photo on Instagram of a woman he was visiting. He had been traveling to Iran to visit the Iranian woman he had met on the Internet, according to his family. White was a throat cancer patient before he went to Iran and was infected with COVID-19 while he was detained.

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He was released into custody at the Swiss Embassy in Tehran in March on humanitarian grounds and a medical furlough on the condition that he stay in Iran after coming down with COVID-19 symptoms. At the time, he was serving out a 13-year sentence. He remained on the medical furlough at the time of his release.

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"For the past 683 days my son, Michael, has been held hostage in Iran by the IRGC and I have been living a nightmare," his mother, Joanne White, said in a statement, referring to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. "I am blessed to announce that the nightmare is over, and my son is safely on his way home."

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"We understand there is great interest in Michael's story. In time, Michael will tell it himself, his way," she added.

President Donald Trump tweeted that her son was on a Swiss plane that left Iranian Airspace.

"We expect him to be home with his family in America very soon," the tweet read.

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Earlier in the week an Iranian scientist, Dr. Sirous Asgari, held in the United States for months after being acquitted in a trade secrets case was deported and sent back to Iran.

Three other people with dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship are still in custody in Iran after being accused of collaboration with the United States. Among them, are Siamak Namazi, a business executive, his father Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF diplomat, and Morad Tahbaz, an environmental activist.

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"My prayers are with the Namazi and Tahbaz families and the families of so many other wrongfully detained Americans around the world," White's mother said in her statement Thursday.

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