Robert Levinson, past photo and computer-gene
Robert Levinson, past photo and computer-geneUS Goverment

The last known man to see retired FBI agent and CIA contractor Robert Levinson alive in Iran now says that Levinson, who disappeared in 2007, was definitely detained by Iranian authorities and is almost certainly still in Iranian custody if he remains alive, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Levinson disappeared in March 2007 during a business trip in Iran while he was supposedly working as a private detective looking into cigarette smuggling.

Dawud Salahuddin, an African-American convert to Islam who met with Levinson on Iran’s resort island of Kish in 2007, told the Monitor in Tehran that they were detained at the Maryam Hotel on March 9, 2007, by six plainclothes policemen and then separated.

"They took me away, and when I left – we were down in the lobby – Levinson was surrounded by four Iranian police,” says Salahuddin, who spent that night in jail.

When he returned the next day, Salahuddin spoke to the Indian manager of the hotel, who told him Levinson was gone: “He told me that, and without saying a word let me know that the guy did not leave on his own accord, that he was in custody. But he didn’t have to say it out loud for me to know that. And he wouldn’t have said it…. I understood that something was wrong.”

Salahuddin, whom the Monitor describes as “a fugitive who has lived in Iran since carrying out a 1980 murder in Maryland on behalf of Iran's revolutionary regime,” says the flurry of publicity and revelations about Levinson's CIA connections could be a sign of an impending release.

For years, the US government insisted that Levinson was only a private citizen working for a private client. Last week, the Associated Press revealed that Levinson was in fact part of a rogue CIA operation seeking to collect intelligence on Iran's financial dealings and nuclear program. He had told his CIA handlers that he was trying to cultivate Salahuddin as a source who had deep contacts in Iran.

Last month, the White House publicly called on Tehran to release Levinson, along with two other US citizens held by the Islamic Republic.

On Sunday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif restated Tehran's official position, telling CBS News that Iran has “no trace” of Levinson, and if he were still in Iran, he was not under government custody.