12:37 GMT27 January 2020
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    The family of Robert Levinson, an ex-FBI agent-turned-CIA consultant who disappeared in Iran 13 years ago, has asked a US judge for $1.5 billion in damages from Iran. Tehran recently said it opened a missing persons probe into Levinson, but his family believes he sits in an Iranian prison.

    Levinson once worked for the FBI, but after retiring from the bureau, he went into a life of private work as a consultant for the CIA. While on an ill-planned mission to Iran’s Kish Island resort destination on the Persian Gulf in March 2007, Levinson disappeared, with little heard of his whereabouts since.

    Levinson’s family was deterred from bringing a suit against the CIA with a $2.5 million payoff in order to keep sensitive details about his work from coming to light, but now the family has brought a new suit against the Iranian government, asking a Washington, DC, federal judge on Wednesday to grant them $150 million in compensatory damages and $1.35 billion in punitive damages as a deterrent to further hostage-taking, AP reported.

    Levinson’s seven children and his wife, Christine, are expected to testify this week. Several have read emails from before Robert’s disappearance, recounted the days immediately before he left for Kish Island and testified about their mental illnesses acquired in grappling with his disappearance.

    “This is an American tragedy, this is a tragedy without end,” David McGee, the family’s legal counsel, told Judge Timothy Kelly on Wednesday. “It is difficult to imagine the pain they have gone through.” 

    Levinson, who would be 71 now, was believed by the Obama administration to be dead. However, US President Donald Trump has revived the position that Levinson lives and is being hidden away in an Iranian prison, offering a $25 million reward for information leading to his return.

    According to the Washington Post, Levinson’s apprehension was acknowledged by Iranian news outlet Press TV shortly after his disappearance in 2007, but Tehran has since denied knowledge of his whereabouts. A photo of him in a prison jumpsuit and long beard emerged in April 2011; Douglas, the youngest Levinson child, described his father as looking “hopeless” and “defeated” in the image.

    Last month, Iran’s Revolutionary Court told the United Nations it had an “open case” on Levinson as a missing person investigation.

    “Levinson has a judicial case in our country as he is missing …This is based on humanitarian issues,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told journalists at the time. However, he noted that US nationals - like Levinson’s family - have “no judicial or criminal case in any Islamic Republic of Iran court whatsoever.”

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    Tags:
    US Federal Court, damages, Lawsuit, Robert Levinson, Iran
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