Amid virus outbreak, mother demands son’s release from Iran

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The mother of a U.S. Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran is calling on the Tehran government to release her son immediately, saying she is concerned for his well-being because of the coronavirus that’s been blamed for dozens of deaths in Iran. She also wants the Trump administration to step up its pressure.

“If something’s not done, he’s going to die over there,” Joanne White said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It breaks my heart when I think about my son being mentally tortured.”

Her son, Michael White of Imperial Beach, California, has cancer and has been imprisoned since July 2018 while visiting a girlfriend in Iran. He was convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information online, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Joanne White said she had recently learned that her son had been transferred for a short period at the end of January to Iran’s Evin prison before being returned to the jail where he’d been earlier held. A lawyer for Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American held at Evin prison, has said a prisoner in Namazi’s ward tested positive for coronavirus, possibly exposing other prisoners in the cell.

“It’s unfathomable that Michael will not contract coronavirus if he hasn’t already,” said Jon Franks, a spokesman for the White family. “They can’t even keep their own government regime officials safe.”

The White family is also seeking proof that Michael White is alive after Iranians canceled a visit that Swiss officials had scheduled with White this week.

“It is also long past time for the administration my son so proudly voted for to to something to bring him home,” Joanne White said in a statement.


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