Iran Releases U.S. Veteran on Medical Furlough

On March 19, the U.S. State Department announced that Michael White, a U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran, was temporarily released from prison on a medical furlough.  His release was facilitated by the Swiss, who represent U.S. interests in Iran. White was required to remain in Iran throughout his furlough. He was due to undergo a medical exam at the Swiss embassy in Tehran, according to the State Department. 

White was arrested on unspecified charges in late July 2018 while visiting his girlfriend in Tehran. In March 2019, an Iranian prosecutor said that White had been sentenced, but he did not elaborate on the charges. An attorney for the family, Mark Zaid, later said that he was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly insulting the supreme leader and 10 years for posting a private photograph on social media. Zaid said that he believed the sentences would run concurrently.

On March 4, 2020, White’s mother called for his release amid a coronavirus outbreak in the country, which had spread to at least three Iranian prisons by February 25. She reported that White was in poor health and at high risk of contracting the virus. “If something’s not done, he’s going to die over there,” Joanne White said. The following is a press release by the State Department.

On March 25, White was hospitalized in Tehran with coronavirus symptoms, according to a family spokesman. The family said that White “is an immunocompromised cancer patient and his situation is urgent.” New Mexico Governor urged Iran to grant White a medical evacuation to the United States. “Not only will this allow Michael to receive additional treatment here in the United States, but it will help protect Iranian citizens from further exposure and free up their own medical personnel to treat their own citizens,” the statement said.


State Department Press Release

Michael White, who has been wrongfully detained by the Iranian regime since 2018 and is serving a 13-year sentence, was released today on a medical furlough.  His release on humanitarian grounds was conditioned upon him staying in Iran.  Michael is now in the custody of the Swiss embassy and will undergo medical testing and evaluation.   

The United States will continue to work for Michael’s full release as well as the release of all wrongfully detained Americans in Iran. 

We thank the Government of Switzerland for its continued and constructive role as our protecting power in Iran. 

We again call on the Iranian government to immediately release on humanitarian grounds Morad Tahbaz, Baquer Namazi, and Siamak Namazi.  We also ask the regime to honor the commitment it made to work with the United States for the return of Robert Levinson.


Some of the information in this article was originally published on March 19, 2020.