Breaking news on Bob Levinson
An American fugitive living in Iran since he murdered an Iranian opposition activist in the US in 1980 has revealed that he met a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent shortly before the latter disappeared on the Iranian island of Kish a month ago.
US authorities have been anxiously seeking information about the former agent, Robert Levinson, for several weeks. The Iranian foreign ministry says it is trying to clarify his whereabouts. US officials suspect he is in Iranian detention.
European diplomats in Washington hesitate to describe Mr Levinson as a "hostage", saying details of his case remain murky.
They are concerned that the US, Britain and Iran are stumbling into a new phase of tit-for-tat prisoner-taking that was kicked off when the US detained five Iranian officials in Iraq in January, sparking anger in Tehran.
The US State Department has revealed few details about Mr Levinson's visit to Iran, insisting he was there on purely private business.
But Dawud Salahuddin, an American [born in Roakoke Rapids, North Carolina as David Belfield] who converted to Islam and was given refuge in Iran in 1980, shed light on the mystery when he confirmed to the Financial Times in Tehran that he had met Mr Levinson in a hotel on Kish on March 8.
Mr Salahuddin, known in Iran as Hassan Abdul Rahman, said he was detained by officials in plain clothes at 11pm and taken from the room he shared with Mr Levinson to be questioned about his Iranian passport. Mr Salahuddin was freed the next afternoon and told by the officials that Mr Levinson had flown back to Dubai.
"I don't think he is missing, but don't want to point my finger at anyone. Some people know exactly where he is," Mr Salahuddin said. "He came only to see me."
According to Mr Salahuddin, the meeting was only to put Mr Levinson in touch with Iranian authorities to help his investigations on smuggling of cigarettes as part of the former agent's work for a tobacco company.
"What he was trying to do in Kish was to find a channel to introduce him to authorities in Tehran to help find out about networks involved in smuggling of cigarettes, because his contractor company has been losing a lot of money."
His account of their meeting confirmed the suspicions of friends of Mr Levinson in the US who believe he was arrested after meeting Mr Salahuddin.
Mr Salahuddin has admitted in interviews to killing Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a former Iranian diplomat under the shah, in Maryland in 1980, shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran.
In the past he has expressed an interest in returning to the US to face justice. He has also written about his long-distance relationship with a police detective, the late Carl Shoffler, who wanted to get him back to the US.
US officials have stressed that Mr Levinson, whose expertise lies in Russian criminal gangs and counterfeiting, was not in Kish on US government business.
Belfield/Salahuddin/Rahman also appeared in the internationally-acclaimed film Kandahar, playing an African-American doctor who looks after ailing Afghan women. He's credited in the film as "Hassan Tantai."
Belfield/Salahuddin/Rahman/Tantai is also the subject of a 2006 documentary by Canadian film director (and husband of Michaëlle Jean, the Canadian Governor General) Jean-Daniel Lafond, American Fugitive: The Truth About Hassan. That film likewise garnered considerable international acclaim at film festivals, including one in (you guessed it) Dubai.
One more thing: Watergate trivia fans will recall that the above-mentioned Carl Shoffler was also one of the arresting officers on the night of June 17, 1972.
Anyone still think Levinson's disappearance was routine?
UPDATE: Allahpundit at HotAir wonders: "What would a guy like that gain by implicating his Iranian protectors in Levinson’s disappearance? If they wanted that fact made public, there are plenty of other ways to do it."
Don't forget to sign the Free Bobby! petition.
Posted by Rodger on April 13, 2007 at 03:14 PM | Permalink
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