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US Navy veteran held in Iran is sentenced to 10 years, lawyers say

Melissa Etehad, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Lawyers representing the family of an American citizen from San Diego detained in Iran said Thursday that the Navy veteran has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and for disclosing private information by posting a photo on Instagram of a woman he was visiting.

Michael White, 46, was detained in Mashhad, a religious city in eastern Iran, last July after traveling there to visit the woman. It was his third time visiting her in the Islamic Republic, said Jonathan Franks, a spokesman for his family.

White is being held in Vakilabad Prison, which is known for its executions of drug traffickers.

"The 'inappropriate' photo was of White sitting with a woman we think is his girlfriend," said Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing White's family.

White is the first U.S. citizen arrested in Iran since President Donald Trump took office. His sentencing could worsen already rocky relations with the United States.

Franks said White's family has been told he was beaten and interrogated about his naval service after his arrest, adding that White has not been able to communicate directly with his family.

 

The family learned of his detention in January. Diplomats from the Swiss Embassy in Tehran visited White in February, Franks said.

The United States broke off formal diplomatic relations with Iran during the 1980 hostage crisis, and Switzerland has since represented U.S. interests in Tehran.

White served 13 years in the U.S. Navy, working in aviation maintenance administration. After retiring, he attended San Diego State, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science.

Zaid said the State Department informed him and the family Monday that White was convicted in a trial that was held without prior notice. A local lawyer assigned to represent White in the court hearing, Zaid said, did not speak English.

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