Missing American on video: 'Help me'
WASHINGTON (AP) – Long after he vanished in Iran, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson reappeared in a video and a series of photographs sent to his family over the past year, transforming a mysterious disappearance into a hostage standoff with an unknown kidnapper, The Associated Press has learned.
In the video emailed to his family in November 2010, Levinson pleaded with the U.S. government to meet the demands of his unidentified captors.
"I have been treated well. But I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years," Levinson says. "And please help me get home."
The 54-second video showed Levinson looking haggard but unharmed, sitting in front of what appeared to be a concrete wall. He had lost considerable weight, particularly in his face, and his white shirt hung off him. There were no signs of recent mistreatment. But Levinson, who has a history of diabetes and high blood pressure, implored the U.S. to help him quickly.
"I am not in very good health," he says. "I am running very quickly out of diabetes medicine."
The AP saw the video and obtained a government transcript of Levinson's statement soon after it arrived last year but did not immediately report it because the U.S. government said doing so would complicate diplomatic efforts to bring Levinson home.
Now, those efforts appear to have stalled, U.S. relations with Iran have worsened and Levinson's wife, Christine, of Coral Springs, Florida, is expected to release the video herself in a desperate attempt to make contact with whoever is holding her 63-year-old husband.
That represents a sharp change in strategy in a case that for years the United States treated as a diplomatic issue rather than a hostage situation. Christine Levinson has issued many public statements over the years, but she typically directed them to her missing husband or to the government of Iran.
In the nearly five years that Levinson has been missing, the U.S. government has never had solid intelligence about what happened to him. Levinson had been retired from the FBI for years and was working as a private investigator when he traveled to the Iran in March 2007. His family has said an investigation into cigarette smuggling brought him to Kish, a resort island where Americans need no visa to visit. Read more
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