Iran confirms arrest of US citizen

Iran on Wednesday confirmed that it has arrested and detained a U.S. citizen that was profiled in a New York Times report on Monday. 

The country's foreign ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, confirmed the detention of U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, according to Iranian news sources, Reuters reported.

ADVERTISEMENT

Qassemi claimed that Iran had alerted the U.S. government to White's arrest days after he was taken into custody, state news agency IRNA reported. 

“An American citizen was arrested in the city of Mashhad some time ago and his case was conveyed to the U.S administration on the first days” of his incarceration, Qassemi was quoted as saying, according to The Associated Press

Qassemi also reportedly denied that White has been mistreated while authorities hold in him Iran.

White's mother told the Times this week that White went missing over the summer and State Department officials told her several weeks ago that her son is being detained in a prison in Iran. 

Joanne White said her son had visited Iran "five or six times" to see his Iranian girlfriend. He was set to return from Iran in July but never boarded his flight, prompting his mother to file a missing person report.

Qassemi said Iranian officials will make a statement about White's case at the right time, but it is currently going through a legal process. 

“We are aware of reports of the detention of a U.S. citizen in Iran,” the State Department said in a statement to the Times. “We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad. Due to privacy considerations, we have no additional information to provide at this time.”

Several other Americans are currently detained in Iran. The country has previously used the detention of U.S. citizens to gain leverage in negotiations, the AP noted.

White's imprisonment comes during a period of increasingly tense relations between Tehran and Washington, with the U.S. recently reimposing severe sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal. The sanctions have severely hurt the Iranian economy, particularly its middle class.