A cancer-stricken U.S. Navy veteran who’s been incarcerated in Iran since July on allegations that he insulted the country’s supreme leader and shared a private photo to social media was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week, his U.S. lawyer has confirmed with the media.
“U.S. State Department officials informed the family of Michael White about the sentence after receiving the information from the Swiss government, which represents U.S. interests in Iran, said Mark Zaid, White’s attorney,” Fox News reported Sunday.
“White, 46, of Imperial City, Calif., was sentenced to two years in prison for insulting the country’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and 10 years for posting a private photo, Zaid said. It appeared the sentences were to run concurrently, the lawyer said.”
According to White’s family, he traveled to Iran to visit a woman whom he’d met online. Sometime during the visit, he engaged in actions that violated the nation’s strict Islamic-based code of law. He was arrested in July and has remained behind bars since.
White’s mother, Joanne, spoke with CBS News in late January:
Joanne’s been unable to speak with her son directly and has had to instead rely on reports from diplomats from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran. They reportedly visited him Feb. 6.
“It was the first time the Swiss had been able to see Mr. White since he was seized in Mashhad last July and taken to Vakilabad Prison, after having visited a person his family has described as an Iranian girlfriend. He has still not been able to communicate directly with his family,” The New York Times noted earlier this month.
His stay at the prison in the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad has reportedly not been pleasant.
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned that Mike was badly beaten when he was arrested and that he has been taken to court at least twice for proceedings in Farsi that he couldn’t understand,” White’s mother said to the Times. “My son is not well. His health is deteriorating, and I want him back so I can get him the care he badly needs.”
White is a cancer survivor who previously served 13 years in the U.S. According to a GoFundMe that’s been set up on his behalf, he may be experiencing a recurrence.
“Not long ago, Michael survived cancer. He also has several other potentially life-threatening medical conditions which cannot be adequately treated at a prison in Iran,” the page notes.
“We have also received multiple, credible reports from Iranian nationals who were in prison with him that Michael has a tumor he suspects may be a recurrence of his cancer. Michael’s mom believes he’ll die in prison if he’s not released urgently to get the specialized medical care he needs.”
Navy Vet Michael White has been wrongfully detained in Iran for 7 months. He was beaten, and his health is rapidly declining. Please share and help raise awarreness for @freemikewhite #FreeMikeWhite
https://t.co/FgF0hqLXoJ&… via @gofundme
— Montel Williams (@Montel_Williams) March 5, 2019
The GoFundMe adds that White needs an Iranian lawyer versus a U.S. one:
“All funds from this campaign will go to hire Michael a lawyer in Iran, buy him extra food and other items in prison and make it possible for him to eventually call his mother. Any leftover funds will be donated to veterans charity to be identified later.”
It’s unclear whether the Trump administration has made any efforts to get White released. Fox notes that any potential efforts “could face difficulties given the fractured relationship between Washington and Tehran that sunk to a new low after the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year.”
It doesn’t help that the exact nature of the convictions against White haven’t really been explained. In fact, when the Times ran its report about him and his family in early March, it noted that even he “still does not know what charges — if any — have been filed against him.”
“Iranian officials have not explained further details of the two charges,” the Times added in an updated report Friday.
Other Americans currently incarcerated in Iran include Xiyue Wang, Siamak Namazi and Namazi’s father, Baquer Namazi. They were reportedly arrested on allegations of spying. Another American, former FBI special agent Robert A. Levinson, has reportedly been missing since 2007.
“After three very different presidential administrations, we are no closer to bringing Bob home than when we started. We have nothing,” Levinson’s wife, Christine, testified to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee earlier this month.
Some leftists have blamed White’s incarceration and sentencing in particular on the president:
Because you cancel the Iran deal veterans I’m going to prison in foreign countries I’m sure that Michael White and his family thanks you for his 10 years in an Iran prisonhttps://t.co/gz4JCv6LWT
— Hell Hound (@sorrya2) March 17, 2019
The argument is that it was Trump’s cancellation of a widely panned Democrat-crafted deal that would empower Iran with a nuclear weapon within a matter of decades that’s to blame.
But others have been quick to note that it’s always been the Democrats who’ve catered to the brutal Iranian regime, not Republicans like the president:
OBAMA besties IRAN sentence US Navy vet with cancer to 10-years prison
1) Insulting their supreme leader (same leader @BarackObama bowed before)
2) Posting a picture on social media
— TheSiLOUD (@TheSilentLOUD) March 17, 2019
All sides do agree on one thing: White and the other Americans incarcerated in Iran need to be released:
@StateSPEHA Please do everything possible to free loved ones in Iran#FreeTheNamazis #FreeXiyueWang #FreeNizarZakka #FreeMichaelWhite @RepTedDeutch @RepHuffman @StateDept #WhatAboutBob pic.twitter.com/zq65IbsBHY
— Amanda? (@Amandalavan1) March 11, 2019
Got to get him,home!??? US Navy vet fighting cancer gets 10-year prison sentence in Iranhttps://t.co/kvZW8JftmA
— Beer Whisperer PhD MAGA KAG??? (@philadper2014) March 17, 2019
— Bluz Guitar Guy❌ (@Bluzguitar49) March 17, 2019
— SMST❤️ (@TrumperAZ) March 17, 2019