Detained US veteran released on medical furlough in Iran: Pompeo

Iranian women wave a national flag and a torn US flag during commemorations marking 41 years since the Islamic Revolution in Tehran in February 2020 (AFP Photo/ATTA KENARE) (AFP/File)
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Washington (AFP) - A US military veteran imprisoned in Iran was freed Thursday for medical reasons on condition that he stay in the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Michael White has been transferred for medical examinations to the Swiss embassy, which represents US interests in Tehran in the absence of diplomatic relations, Pompeo said.

"The United States will continue to work for Michael's full release as well as the release of all wrongfully detained Americans in Iran," he added.

White, who spent 13 years in the US Navy, was arrested in July 2018 in the northeastern city of Mashhad while visiting a girlfriend he reportedly met online.

He was sentenced the following year to at least 10 years in prison on charges that he insulted Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posted anti-regime remarks on social media under a pseudonym.

A lawyer for White, Mark Zaid, said that the furlough was related to pre-existing medical conditions and not directly related to the coronavirus.

White's family has said that he suffered from cancer and that Iranian doctors removed a melanoma from his back.

"At this time we're not aware of any coronavirus issues although this is particularly plaguing Iran so there is always a concern," Zaid said.

"For now he is to remain in Iran but we hope that he will be allowed to leave the country soon," he said.

Iran is one of the countries worst hit by the global coronavirus pandemic, with a death toll of nearly 1,300.

Earlier this week Iran also freed for two weeks Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media organization's philanthropic arm.

Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality, is still holding dual nationals Siamak Namazi, who was convicted in 2016 of charges that include espionage and collaboration with the US government, his father Baquer and environmental expert Morad Tahbaz.

Iran in December freed Xiyue Wang, a US academic, in an exchange for scientist Massoud Soleimani and said it was open to further exchanges.

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