Tehran Confirms Reports of US Citizen's Arrest in Iran

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran Iran

"An American citizen named Michael White was arrested in the city of Mashhad a while ago and the US Interests Section in Tehran was informed in the first days" since his arrest, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters Wednesday.

Iran has not yet made public the arrest of White and no specific charges have been made clear.

News about the American's detention comes amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran.

The U.S. Defense Department would not release White's military record, citing concerns for his safety, and referred NPR to the State Department.

"We have no higher priority than the safety and security of USA citizens overseas".

The information about his arrest was first published by The New York Times earlier in the week. According to Ms White, her son traveled to Iran to meet with his Iranian girlfriend. On the third trip, he was arrested at an worldwide airport in Mashad and has been in prison since the summer of 2018.

Mr White's arrest was reported on Monday by the blog, Iranwire. He described White as fearful and depressed, "suffering psychologically", while being held in a ward with unsafe criminals. But he did not see any bruises or cuts on the American.

"He was not in a good psychological condition and is not allowed visitors or access to the phone".

Ivar Farhadi, a cyber-activist who spoke to CBS News, said Mr White had been arrested while preparing to fly to Turkey to marry his girlfriend.

Christine Levinson's husband, former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Bob Levinson, has been missing in Iran since 2007.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, his mother, Joanne White, declined to discuss why her son was being held. She said she filed a missing person report after he failed to return to work in California in late July.

She said the State Department had not contacted her and she was unaware he was in prison until reached by CNN.

"All I know is that he is alive and they were putting in a request for a consular visit by the Swiss", she said.

Switzerland represents US diplomatic interests in the country, as ties between the USA and Iran were cut after Tehran held American diplomats hostage.

She is anxious about her 46-year-old son's health because he has had cancer and suffers from asthma, she said.

"I didn't do what Obama did, give them $1.8 billion in cash to get back four hostages", Mr. Trump said in a United Nations address last September.

President Trump's hardline stance - exiting the nuclear deal and sanctioning Iran - has not stopped it from continuing to detain three other Americans, including Siamak Namazi and his 82-year-old father. Baquer Namazi, a former UNICEF official, was detained about three years ago.

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