By: Sabrina Lolo
Florida — The family of Robert Levinson, an ex-FBI agent and Coral Springs resident who was held captive in Iran for 13 years, says he has died in Iranian custody.
Levinson's family posted their statement on Twitter, saying they recently received information from U.S. officials that has led them and the family to believe that he passed away before the coronavirus pandemic.
>"It is impossible to describe our pain," the statement read in part. "Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us. His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them."
Rep. Ted Deutch expressed his condolences.
>"I deeply appreciate all of my colleagues who have stood alongside me supporting the Levinsons. I thank the FBI, the State Department, and every official in the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations who made bringing Bob home a priority. We will never stop fighting to bring Bob home. Sadly, that’s now a fight to bring him to his final resting place with his family.
"Rest in peace, Bob Levinson."
Sen. Marco Rubio also issued a statement in response to Levinson's death.
>“After years of pressing Iran for the release of American citizen and Florida resident Bob Levinson, the news announced today by his family was the one none of us ever wanted to hear. Jeanette and I send our deepest heartfelt condolences to the Levinson family. I have had the honor of getting to know his incredible family over the last decade. No family should ever have to experience what they have endured. It is my view, which I have shared with the highest levels of this Administration, that the U.S. Government should hold the evil regime accountable for this and demand the immediate release of all other American hostages held in Iran.”
Levinson was the longest held U.S. hostage in history.
He was reportedly captured in the small Iranian island of Kish in 2007. His family later admitted he was working for the CIA at the time. The Iranian government has never acknowledged arresting Levinson, who was employed as a private investigator at the time of his disappearance.
>"I am devastated for the Levinson family," Rep. Ted Deutch said in a statement.
>"Christine, Susan, Stephanie, Sarah, Samantha, Dan, David, and Doug are remarkable people that I respect enormously. They have endured more than any family should ever have to, and it has been my great honor to fight alongside them for Bob’s return. They deserved a better outcome. They deserved to be reunited with Bob."
>"Bob and his family are a part of our community," Deutch continued. "We all mourn with them. We all offer our love and support to them. Bob served our country nobly, and our country owes him and his family our gratitude. I deeply appreciate all of my colleagues who have stood alongside me supporting the Levinsons. I thank the FBI, the State Department, and every official in the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations who made bringing Bob home a priority. We will never stop fighting to bring Bob home. Sadly, that’s now a fight to bring him to his final resting place with his family. Rest in peace, Bob Levinson."
In 2016, four American hostages were freed from Iranian captivity in connection with the money sent to Iran, which the Obama Administration said was tied to a weapons payment reimbursement.
Levinson was not on the plane, which his family took as a blow, said Dan Levinson, Robert Levinson's son.
>“Its very difficult and we’ve known he’s been a pawn in this relationship since the beginning," he told CBS12 News last year.
>"Iranians take hostages and use them as leverage with the U.S."
Last November, Iranian officials sent a message to the United Nations, referring to Levinson’s case as “ongoing,” the first acknowledgement the Iranian government was aware of Levinson since his imprisonment, according to the Associated Press,
This came shortly after the U.S. government raised the reward for information leading to Levinson’s safe return to a combined $25 million, equal with the reward for ISIS leader Abu Al-Baghdadi.
Now, Levinson's family says they don't know if or when they'll get his body back for a proper burial.
>"If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today. It has been 13 years of waiting for answers," the statement read. "Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson, including those in the U.S. government who for many years repeatedly left him behind, will ultimately receive justice for what they have done. We will spend the rest of our lives making sure of this, and the Iranian regime must know we will not be going away."