President Trump has made the decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and has left the door open to discussions about a new agreement with Iran. The pros and cons of this decision will continue to be debated in the days to come. But unbelievably, in all the public commentary to date about what’s at stake with any new Iran deal, there has been essentially no mention of the Americans who are being imprisoned by the Iranian regime.
My father, Robert Levinson, is the longest held hostage in US history. He was taken while visiting Kish Island, Iran, in March 2007. Since then he has had no contact with the outside world, and he and my family—my mother, my six brother and sisters and I—have been living a nightmare no one should ever experience. For the past 11 years, we have been unable to get any acceptable response from the Iranians as to what happened to my father, and we feel that our efforts to get him home are at a complete stalemate. We are desperate for justice and mercy, and day after day, the Iranians and their Supreme Leader fail to provide it.
We have been told repeatedly that Iran is a country of laws, and the Iranian judiciary is scrupulous in its adherence to those laws. We know firsthand this is a lie.
In a recent interview, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated that the Iranian judiciary “is an independent organ, just what you would say about your courts, and we cannot have an impact on the decision of our judiciary.” However, according to a meeting we had just a few weeks ago with our lawyer from Iran, Mr. Mohamad Hossein Aghasi, there is absolutely no indication of sufficient will and determination by this “independent organ” in following up on my father’s case, which was opened through proper judicial channels after my father was taken.
Practically nothing has moved on the case since it was filed, and there is no record that the investigation into what happened to him, which should have been directed and overseen by the court, has ever taken place. The Iranian courts have ignored a motion filed by Mr. Aghasi to compel a witness—David Belfield (aka Dawud Saluhuddin), the last known person to see my father in Iran—to testify. Mr. Aghasi has followed up on this motion repeatedly, but still the Judiciary has not acted on his legal request. And although Mr. Aghasi filed the case as “criminal kidnapping,” it was subsequently reclassified with no notice to our attorney as a “security” case (the equivalent of a local missing persons case being moved to Homeland Security with no explanation) and no visible action has been taken since it was moved.
Why? What is it about this case that is preventing a judicial system with a reputation for legal rigor from following its own procedures? Who is interfering with the Iranian court’s own established protocols to block the case of my father, Robert Levinson, from being resolved? What will finally compel action?
Iranian government officials recently stepped up their claims that my father left Iran: “Levinson traveled to Iran in a certain period, then he left Iran,” and “Iran has no information on him after he left the country.” Yet they provide no supporting details such as when he left, where he went, and what “evidence” they have that this even happened. My father’s passport has never appeared in any other country. The Iranians have never produced a final report despite years of claiming they have completed their investigation. Mr. Aghasi tells us the case is still open in the Iranian courts so how can they claim he left but have no further information? Even the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention rendered an opinion and expressed concern at the government’s lack of response to the allegations brought against them. All we want is information that can help us find our father and bring him home.
In its handling of the case of Robert Levinson, it is clear the Iranian judicial system has been failing to live up to its own standards for years now, and my family and my father continue to suffer. The silence of the Supreme Leader is deafening.
If Iran wants to be taken seriously as a global power in the international community, they have the opportunity right now to show goodwill by acting immediately to send my father home.
We need justice and mercy. We need our father home.
Sarah Moriarty is the daughter of Iranian hostage Robert Levinson.