United States Navy Veteran Michael White from Imperial Beach, California, filed a federal lawsuit against the Iranian government, suing them for $1 billion on allegations that he was kidnapped, taken hostage, and tortured.
White spent nearly two years in Iran behind bars after Iranian authorities apprehended him. The lawsuit described in detail the “prolonged and continued” abuse White experienced, which included frequent beatings, starvation, and pressure to confess that he was a US spy, which he claimed he was not.
How did he get to Iran in the first place? White planned a trip to Iran in the summer of 2018 to meet a love interest he reportedly met using the Yahoo chat room feature a few years back. The two had an on-and-off relationship, and he hoped to rekindle their romance with a visit. Unfortunately for him, the trip proved unsuccessful as the person he meant to meet stopped seeing and communicating with him.
Another indirect prisoner swap between Tehran & Washington:
Iran just released US Navy veteran Michael White who was imprisoned for 2yr on security charges.
The US recently released Iranian scientist Sirous Asgari who was accused but later exonerated of violating sanctions. pic.twitter.com/fDK67qztKp
— Negar Mortazavi نگار مرتضوی (@NegarMortazavi) June 4, 2020
On his final day in the country, the car he was riding in got cut off by another vehicle. Three men came out and dragged White and his tour guide into their car. The two were brought to an office for questioning. Afterward, the Navy vet began a terrible two-year run in an Iranian prison. He was initially convicted of insulting Iran’s “supreme leader” and was subsequently sentenced to a decade in prison.
“Mr. White endured this trauma for nearly two years, never knowing if or when he would be released and reunited with his family, repeatedly promised that his conditions would improve soon, only to be crushed psychologically when they did not,” the lawsuit stated.
The 31-page complaint follows a diary White wrote during his incarceration. There, Michael White went into detail describing his horrific experiences while in Iran. Exclusive access to the contents of the diary was given to the Associated Press.
White cataloged and recalled multiple instances of physical and verbal abuse from the jail guards and fellow inmates. He wrote about when he was brought to what he described as “intel jail.” There he was deprived of food for several days under poor living conditions. The situation was worsened by White’s medical condition. Before leaving for Iran, he underwent chemotherapy and frequented the hospital after being diagnosed and treated for cancer.
For months, he was interrogated regarding his intentions for coming to Iran as he was suspected of being a spy for the US government. White wrote his anecdotes in secret, writing under the guise of playing Sudoku and smuggling pages with the help of other prisoners.
Things took a turn after White’s release was negotiated by the Trump administration in exchange for releasing dermatologist Matteo Taerri, an Iranian-American charged with violating banking laws and US sanctions on Iran. White flew from Tehran to Zurich in 2020 as the two nations wrapped up their ends of the bargain.
“I am happy to announce that Navy Veteran, Michael White, who has been detained by Iran for 683 days, is on a Swiss plane that just left Iranian Airspace. We expect him to be home with his family in America very soon,” said former President Trump on Twitter. “I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas! Thank you, Switzerland, for your great assistance.”
The Trump administration celebrated his release, claiming to have prioritized the release of American detainees and hostages worldwide.
The Iranian regime authorities arrested U.S. Navy veteran Michael White in 2018, sentenced him to 13 years in prison. Worked with the Swiss, our protecting power in Iran, to get him released in March 2020. Michael returned home in June 2020. #AmericansFirst pic.twitter.com/WTpjp8KHEB
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 1, 2021
White brands himself as a “political hostage” when the US and Iran were at odds over the fallout of a crucial nuclear agreement. Months after his release, the vet shared his intentions to let his story be known.
“I don’t want the government of Iran to think that ‘Oh, Mike White’s out of here, he’s going away, he’s going to be quiet,'” he said. “That’s not going to happen. Believe me, if only you understood the fear and anger inside of me as a result of what they did.”
White’s lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Washington, DC. There are currently no updates on whether Iran intends to give a formal response to the complaint or if it plans to send a representative to attend the hearing. If Iran does not respond to White’s allegations, the judge in Washington can impose a default judgment on his behalf. This will allow him to collect damage reparations from a fund made specifically made for victims of state-led terrorism.