The Trump Administration has successfully negotiated the release of United States Navy veteran Michael White who was being held captive in Iran.
The United States Navy veteran arrived on a plane Thursday from Tehran on a Swiss government flight. According to Fox News, White expressed his appreciation to the president, whom he spoke to by phone after landing. White also said, “It’s great to be free.”
“I want to extend my personal thanks to President Trump for his efforts both diplomatically and otherwise,” he said. “He is making America great again and I look forward to what is going to happen here in the future.”
White’s mother celebrated her son’s release saying in a statement, “The nightmare is over.”
After nearly four months of negotiations between State Department officials and the Iranian government, White was released into U.S. custody. The State Department’s Iran envoy Brian Hook completed the transfer and walked White off the plane, into American custody and back into freedom.
White said that he was sick with COVID-19 while in prison, but is now “recovering pretty decently, getting back into shape, I was really in poor shape then. But I am getting a lot better as a result of Swiss embassy and all of the efforts of the Trump administration.”
President Trump tweeted about the release shortly after the plane carrying White officially left Iranian airspace. “I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas! Thank you Switzerland for your great assistance,” he tweeted.
“We are bringing another American home,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “Michael White, a U.S. Navy veteran who has been wrongfully jailed in Iran for nearly two years, has been released. He is now on his way back to the United States, where we look forward to reuniting him with his family.”
He added: “I commend U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook for negotiating Mr. White’s release with the Iranians. I thank the Swiss government and the work of our diplomats for facilitating this successful diplomacy.”
In July 2018, White says he was visiting his girlfriend in Iran when authorities there arrested him. In March 2019, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges he insulted Iran’s supreme leader and posted private photographs on social media.
In March, White, who has battled cancer and other illnesses, was initially released on a medical furlough, but he was still ordered to stay in Iran at the time.
“Michael White’s a pretty tough guy. He’s a cancer survivor. He has now survived two years in Iranian prison where he was beaten in prison. He then contracted in COVID and survived,” said Hook, the State Department’s Special Representative for Iran, who negotiated the agreement to free White. “The Iranian regime has a history of using Americans as political pawns.”
Officials say they’re still working to free other American citizens in Iran like Siamak Namazi, a businessman; his father Baquer Namazi; and Morad Tahbaz, an American environmentalist; as well as secure the remains of former FBI agent Robert Levinson. His family announced in late March that they received intelligence that Levinson had died in Iranian custody.