The family of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared 13 years ago on an island off Iran, said Wednesday that he died while being held in Iran as the longest-held hostage in American history. Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman at Iran’s Permanent Mission to the U.N., said Wednesday: “Iran has always maintained that its officials have no knowledge of Mr. Levinson’s whereabouts, and that he is not in Iranian custody.”
British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been released temporarily by the Iranian authorities because of the coronavirus outbreak, says her husband. Richard Radcliffe said unlike other prisoners given temporary release, his wife has to wear an ankle tag, which her parents had to hire from the authorities and her movements will be restricted to 300 meters from her parents’ home.
Iran has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus, a judiciary spokesman in the country has said. Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said on 10 March he asked Tehran to temporarily free all political prisoners from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails. The number of dead from the coronavirus has reached 853 in Iran.
Iran said on Thursday its death toll from coronavirus had risen to 26, by far the highest number outside China, and the total number of infected people now stood at 245, including several senior officials. The outbreak prompted authorities to call off Friday prayers in the capitals of 23 of Iran’s 31 provinces. Iran’s state news agency IRNA said Iran had banned Chinese citizens from entering.
Tens of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets of Tehran and other cities on Tuesday morning to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Islamic revolution, against a backdrop of escalating tensions with the United States. State TV showed video footage of rallies in at least half a dozen cities outside the capital, including Mashhad, Ahvaz and Kerman, with people holding signs that read, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.
A Caspian Airlines plane slid off the runway onto a highway on landing at an airport in southwestern Iran on Monday, but all passengers were evacuated without injury, Iranian state media reported. “It ran out of runway when landing at Mahshahr airport with no casualties,” state news agency IRNA said. Iranian media reported that the pilot was unable to deploy the landing gear, adding that the incident was being investigated.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said European nations including the UK “cannot be trusted” but Tehran is not against negotiating with anyone – except the US. Giving his first sermon in eight years in Tehran, the top cleric branded Donald Trump a “clown” who only pretended to support the Iranian people and would “push a poisonous dagger” into their back.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed on Wednesday a proposal for a new “Trump deal” aimed at resolving a nuclear row, saying it was a “strange” offer and criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump for always breaking promises. In a televised speech, Rouhani told Washington to return to the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018, under which Tehran curbed its nuclear work in return for the lifting of international sanctions on Iran.
Several people have been arrested in Iran over the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that those responsible would be punished. Gholamhossein Esmaili, the spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, was quoted by the semi-official FARS news agency Tuesday as saying that an investigation into the crash had started and several arrests had been made.
Protests erupted across Iran for a second day on Sunday, increasing pressure on the Islamic Republic’s leadership after it admitted its military shot down a Ukrainian airliner by accident, despite days of denials that Iranian forces were to blame. The Ukraine International Airlines plane was downed minutes after taking off from Tehran bound for Kiev on Wednesday. Many on board were Iranians with dual citizenship, while 57 were holders of Canadian passports.