03/11/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/11/2019 16:30
USCIRF Commissioner Andy Khawaja Adopts Religious
Prisoner of Conscience Robert Levinson
12th Anniversary Passes for Missing American Who Disappeared in Iran
WASHINGTON, DC - Andy Khawaja, Commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today announced, as part of USCIRF's Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, his adoption of Robert Levinson, an American of the Jewish faith who disappeared in 2007 and is believed to be held captive by the Iranian government under suspicions of espionage.
This week marks 12 years since Levinson's disappearance. In 2013, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government was willing to cooperate in gathering information about Levinson's disappearance, but his whereabouts remain unknown. In 2015, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution calling for Levinson's release and the same year, the FBI offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his whereabouts.
'I call on the Iranian government to provide information about Robert Levinson's current whereabouts and to return him to his family here in the United States immediately,' said Khawaja. 'Levinson's presumed captivity has been a travesty and now is the time for Iran to honor their commitment to cooperate and to respect human rights, including religious freedom.'
Since Levinson's disappearance, members of Congress have repeatedly introduced draft legislation, the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage Taking Accountability bill, which would authorize the imposition of sanctions on persons responsible for hostage-taking or unlawful detention abroad among other measures. This bill was most recently reintroduced in 2019 by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and has bipartisan support.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at [email protected] or Kellie Boyle at [email protected] or +1-703-898-6554.