US sanctions Iranian officials over abduction of Robert Levinson

US sanctions two officials from Iran's Ministry of Intelligence in connection to 2007 abduction of former FBI agent.

Elad Benari ,

Iran sanctions
Iran sanctions

The US Treasury Department on Monday imposed sanctions against two Iranian officials in connection to the 2007 abduction of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, authorities said, according to NBC News.

The sanctions target Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, who are within the Ministry of Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran (MOIS), officials said.

"For 13 years, the Iranian government, which continues to take foreigners and dual-nationals hostage as political leverage, has denied knowledge of Mr. Levinson's whereabouts or condition," said a Treasury statement quoted by NBC News.

"However, senior Iranian officials authorized Levinson's abduction and detention and launched a disinformation campaign to deflect blame from the Iranian regime. The individuals designated today, Mohammad Baseri and Ahmad Khazai, acted in their capacity as MOIS officers in the abduction, detention, and probable death of Mr. Levinson," it added.

The sanctions seize any property and interests the two Iranian officials have in the United States or which are in in the possession or control of US persons.

“The abduction of Mr. Levinson in Iran is an outrageous example of the Iranian regime’s willingness to commit unjust acts,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

“The United States will always prioritize the safety and security of the American people and will continue to aggressively pursue those who played a role in Mr. Levinson’s detention and probable death,” he added.

Levinson vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission. Iran initially insisted that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, but in November of last year it acknowledged for the first time it has an open case before its Revolutionary Court regarding Levinson.

Earlier this year, Levinson’s family said they believed he died in Iranian custody, based on information from US officials. Iran denied that and said the former FBI agent had left the country “years ago.”

In October, a US court ordered the government of Iran to pay more than $1.4 billion in punitive and compensatory damages to Levinson’s family.