‘Individual Plaintiff’ Brought Case Against Imprisoned Navy Veteran, Iran Says

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The mystery over the incarceration of a Navy veteran in Iran last July deepened on Friday, when an Iranian prosecutor said that the case had been based on an “individual plaintiff” and that the prisoner might face security-related charges.

The veteran, Michael R. White of Imperial Beach, Calif., is the first American to be imprisoned in Iran since the Trump administration took office two years ago.

His arrest raised the number of American prisoners in Iran to at least four, and has added an irritant to the already poor relations between the countries.

The prosecutor, Gholamali Sadeqi, in the northeast Iranian city of Mashhad, was quoted in a brief report by Iran’s Mehr news agency as saying “there is an individual plaintiff in the case,” but he did not provide details.

The Persian-language Mehr report, as translated by the BBC, also quoted the prosecutor as saying that Mr. White was under investigation on other unspecified security charges and that he remained imprisoned in Mashhad, where he was taken into custody six months ago.

Mr. White, who just turned 47, is a 13-year Navy veteran who had a girlfriend in Iran and had visited the country several times to see her, according to his mother, Joanne White.

Archived photographs from Mr. White’s discontinued Instagram account show him and a dark-haired woman in a head scarf. The identity of the woman and other details about her remain unclear.

Michael R. White, an American Navy veteran, in an undated photograph provided by his family.

News of Mr. White’s arrest first emerged on Jan. 7, when his mother confirmed it in a telephone interview with The New York Times. She said officials at the State Department had informed her that he was imprisoned and that they were working to ensure he was seen by diplomats from Switzerland, which looks after American interests in Iran.

A spokesman for the White family, Jonathan Franks, said Friday that there had been no communication with Mr. White in Iran and it remained unclear if he had been seen by the Swiss.

But Mr. Franks also said that Mr. White’s mother had spoken with Iranians who had identified themselves as Mr. White’s former cellmates, and that she now worried about the health of her son, a former cancer patient.

“Mrs. White, on the basis of firsthand evidence provided to her by Iranian nationals who were incarcerated with Michael, believes his life-threatening cancer has recurred,” the spokesman said in a statement. “She respectfully calls on the regime to release him immediately so he may get the care he needs.”

Mr. White’s incarceration came against the backdrop of a sharp escalation in pressure on Iran by Mr. Trump, who has abandoned the Iranian nuclear agreement, reimposed severe sanctions and vowed to choke off most Iranian oil exports, the country’s main source of income.

The White family’s spokesman said any suggestion that Mr. White might have engaged in espionage or sedition in Iran was false.

“Michael enjoyed his many visits to Iran to visit his girlfriend and has great respect for the Iranian people,” he said. “To be clear, Michael is not now, nor has he ever been a spy and we reject the notion he committed some sort of crime against the state.”

There has been no indication from Iran that any of the other Americans known to be imprisoned there will be released anytime soon.

On Thursday, Jared Genser, an American lawyer in Washington for two of the prisoners, Baquer and Siamak Namazi, said Iran’s Supreme Court had recently rejected the appeals of their 10-year prison sentences on charges of having collaborated with the United States.

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