05:26 GMT01 October 2020
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    A US Navy veteran is accused of insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader and posting private photos online. Earlier reports indicated he faced security charges.

    Michael White, a 46-year old US Navy veteran, has been sentenced to ten years in prison after being arrested in July 2018 during a visit to an Iranian woman in the city of Mashhad, The Guardian reported Saturday.

    The American man was reportedly charged with insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting a private photograph publicly, according to The Guardian.

    Earlier in March, Mashhad prosecutors told ISNA news agency that White faced unspecified security charges, according to the AFP.

    "This case has both private and public plaintiffs… There are security charges in the case," prosecutor Gholamali Sadeghi said at the time.

    Family lawyer Mark Zaid said the charges come with penalties of two and ten years correspondingly, adding that he understands the two terms will run concurrently.

    According to Zaid, Iranian officials did not provide further details on the sentence, adding that White has been denied direct communication with his family.

    White's family learned about the sentence from the US State Department, who in turn was informed by Swiss diplomats who represent US interests in Iran, since the two nations have no official diplomatic channel.

    White is the first US national to be imprisoned in Iran since US President Donald Trump took office in 2016 and will likely add tension to an already troubled bilateral relation.

    Currently, Iran holds three US nationals — Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi, and Xiyue Wan — on charges of espionage and sedition, according to The New York Times. Another American, Robert A. Levinson, was reported to have been missing in Iran since 2007.

    Earlier in January, US authorities detained Marzieh Hashemi, a US-born news anchor for Iran's PressTV network. She was released without being charged following a 10-day detention. Hashemi was held in custody as a material witness and testified in an undisclosed federal investigation, a US federal court order said following her release.

    In August 2018, the US charged two Iranians, Ahmadreza Doostdar, 38, and Majid Ghorbani, 59 — who lived in the US — of acting as espionage agents of Tehran. On March 2018, nine Iranian nationals were charged with the theft of 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to the US Department of Justice documents.


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