March 25 (UPI) — The family of Robert Levinson, an American held hostage in Iran, said Wednesday that U.S. officials informed them that he has died.

Levinson’s family said they recently received information from U.S. officials that led them to believe he had died, adding they did not know how or when he died but only that it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today,” his family wrote.

Levinson, a retired Drug Enforcement Agency and FBI agent, private investigator, and part-time CIA consultant, traveled to Kish Island, Iran, in 2007 to investigate cigarette smuggling, the U.S. government and his wife, Christine Levinson have said.

During his visit he met with U.S. fugitive Dawud Salahuddin and Iranian security officials detained them both but Salahuddin said he never again saw Levinson after they were released.

In 2014, Levinson’s family sued Iran, accusing the nation of covering up his imprisonment.

The family in their statement on Wednesday said they will continue to pursue information about his disappearance.

“Those who are responsible for what happened to Bob Levinson including those in the U.S. government who for may years repeatedly left him behind will ultimately receive justice for what they have done,” they said. “We will spend the rest of our lives making sure of this and the Iranian regime must know we will not be going away.”

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., offered his condolences to the family while calling for the passage of the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-taking Accountability Act, which aims to bolster programs to address hostage-taking through sanctions and increased resources to return hostages.

Menendez also stated the Iranian regime was “fully responsible” for Levinson’s disappearance and death.

“Bob’s imprisonment was cruel and arbitrary but consistent with the behavior of the Iranian regime,” he said. “They must be held accountable for their gross human rights abuses and abject cruelty of keeping a father away from his children and grandchildren he will never meet.”

Categories: Wired