US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday (local time) called on the Iran government to provide "credible answers" surrounding the abduction and likely death of former FBI agent Robert Levinson on the 14th anniversary of his disappearance.
In a statement, Blinken said that Levinson's "case is not closed" and called on the Iran government to release all US citizens unjustly detained in the country.
"Today (March 9) marks 14 years since Iran abducted beloved husband, father, grandfather and former FBI agent Robert "Bob" Levinson. In December, the United States sanctioned two high-ranking officials of the Iran Ministry of Intelligence and Security who were involved in the abduction, detention and likely death of Bob Levinson. However this case is not closed," Blinken said.
"We call on the Iran government to provide credible answers to what happened to Bob Levinson and to immediately and safely release all U.S. citizens who are unjustly held captive in Iran. The abhorrent act of unjust detentions for political gain must cease immediately," he added.
According to The Hill, the Levinson family said in March last year that Robert Levinson had likely died in Iran custody based on information from former Trump administration officials. He is believed to be the longest held-hostage in U.S. history since disappearing off Kish Island off the coast of Iran in 2007, although Iran has long denied it has any knowledge of Levinson's fate.
In December, the previous Trump administration imposed sanctions on two officials in Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security believed to be involved in Levinson's abduction, detention and probable death.
The US Congress also passed the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act, aimed at strengthening and streamlining government resources for returning Americans unjustly detained or taken hostage abroad, including making permanent the position of special envoy for hostage affairs.
The top US diplomat said that he spoke with the Levinson family ahead of the anniversary of Levinson's disappearance and praised them for their dedication to pushing for the return of all Americans held abroad.
"Bob's family has inspired the United States to partner with the families of every US hostage and detainee held captive abroad," he said.
The statement was echoed by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said the administration "will continue to demand answers and to hold Iran accountable for his abduction, detention, and probable death." She added, "We will not relent until all of our citizens who continue to be wrongfully detained in Iran and around the world, are returned to their families."
The Levinson family released a statement emphasizing the need for Iran to be held accountable, The Hill reported.
"Fourteen years ago today was the last time Bob Levinson saw freedom. Fourteen years ago today, he was cruelly taken away from everyone he knows and loves, and held with no basic human rights whatsoever," the statement read.
"Today we are still no closer to finding answers. Iran has stonewalled all efforts to find out what exactly happened to Bob Levinson and coldly denies any responsibility."
( With inputs from ANI )
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