American sentenced in Iran to 10 years in prison

American sentenced in Iran to 10 years in prison
US Navy veteran, Michael White, who travelled to Iran to visit a girlfriend, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting the country's supreme leader.
2 min read
17 March, 2019
Iran has sentenced a US national, visiting a girlfriend, to 10 years in prison [Getty]

An Iranian court has sentenced an American to 10 years in prison for insulting the country's supreme leader and posting a private picture, his lawyer confirmed Saturday.

Michael White, 46, a US Navy veteran, was arrested in July in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad while visiting a girlfriend he reportedly met online.

His lawyer Mark Zaid confirmed that White was sentenced to two years for insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and 10 years for posting a picture, apparently to be served concurrently.

"We remain very concerned about his health as he has pre-existing medical conditions but we've been informed he appears to be in a good state at the moment," Zaid said in an email.

The New York Times, which first reported the sentencing, said White had been given two court hearings, on 6 and 9 March.

The State Department was informed of the sentencing by Swiss diplomats who represent US interests in Iran, according to Zaid, who said White has not been allowed to communicate directly with his family.

White's family has said he travelled to Iran on a valid visa to visit a woman with whom he had fallen in love.

White was the first American to be detained in Iran since Donald Trump became president of the United States.

Three other Americans imprisoned in Iran - Siamak Namazi, Baquer Namazi and Xiyue Wang - have been accused of spying and sedition. A fourth, Robert Levinson, has been missing in Iran since 2007.

Iran has faced criticism over its human rights record. Iranian award winning human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced on Tuesday to an extra ten years in jail on top of the five-year term she is already serving.

She is one of six human rights lawyers currently imprisoned in Iran, with many other banned from working.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who has suffered from a range of health issues since being arrested in April 2016, was recently extend special diplomatic protection by the UK Government. This was rejected by the Iranian government.

Relations between Iran and the US deteriorated sharply last year when President Donald Trump withdrew from an international accord on Iran's nuclear programme and re-imposed sweeping sanctions.