Levinson not among prisoners released by Iran, family ‘devastated’

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish-American Robert Levinson was not included in a prisoner exchange with Iran.

Iran on Saturday released five Americans it was holding in its prisons or in detention, four of them as part of a prison swap which included the release of Jason Rezayan, a Washington Post journalist detained on espionage charges since 2014.

In exchange, according to Reuters, the United States will drop charges against eight Iranians involved in sanctions violations.

Levinson, 68, of Coral Springs, Fla., has been missing for close to nine years. CNN quoted Levinson’s family as expressing happiness for the other families, but saying it was “devastated” that he was not among those released.

His family has acknowledged in recent years that Levinson, a father of seven, had been working for the CIA in a rogue operation at the time of his disappearance from Iran’s Kish Island.

Levinson is a private detective and former FBI agent. For years it had been reported that he was working as a private investigator when he disappeared.

Iran denies official involvement in his disappearance and the Washington Post quoted an anonymous U.S. official as saying that as part of the exchange deal, Iran “committed to continue cooperating with the United States to determine the whereabouts of Robert Levinson.”

The exchange comes as Iran nears “implementation day” in the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal it concluded last year with the United States and five other major powers.

The United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is expected to confirm this weekend that Iran has complied with the nuclear rollback component of the deal, which will trigger immediate sanctions relief.

According to the Reuters report, the United States delayed sanctions targeting Iran for testing a ballistic missile late last year in order not to scuttle the prisoner exchange.

Republicans had criticized the Obama administration for delaying those sanctions, which would be triggered under U.N. Security Council resolution and which are separate from the sanctions to be lifted under the nuclear deal.

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