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Missing Ex-FBI Agent's Family To Captors: 'Tell Us Your Demands'

In a direct message to the people who have held retired FBI agent Robert Levinson since he disappeared nearly five years ago in Iran, his son and wife today ask the captors to "please tell us your demands."

"We need to know what you want our family to do so that my father can come home safely," David Levinson says in a video posted by the family on its Help Bob Levinson website.

To her husband, Christine Levinson says: "Bob ... I will continue to do everything I can to bring you home alive. ... We love you, we miss you every day. We will not abandon you."

David Levinson thanks the captors "for taking care of my father" and says a video of Robert Levinson that the family received a year ago was "a comfort ... because it shows that my father is alive and he looks healthy."

That video of Robert Levinson, which the family received in November 2010 but made public for the first time today, has "transformed the mysterious disappearance into an international hostage standoff," The Associated Press writes.

However, the wire service adds, "the U.S. government has no evidence of who is holding the 63-year-old father of seven." In a video report, the AP notes that the elder Levinson may be being held in Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan.

"Mr. Levinson, who worked as a private investigator after retiring from the F.B.I., disappeared in March 2007 while on Kish Island, a resort in the Persian Gulf," The New York Times writes. "He had gone to meet with an American fugitive known as Dawud Salahuddin. Mr. Salahuddin has lived in Iran since 1980 when he fled there after assassinating a former aide to the Shah of Iran outside his home near Washington. Mr. Levinson's family and American officials have said that Mr. Levinson went to Iran to investigate cigarette smuggling for a private client."

The Times says it reviewed the tape showing Robert Levinson last year, "but at his family's request withheld its publication." The Associated Press writes that it "saw the video soon after it arrived last year but did not immediately report it because the U.S. government said doing so would complicate diplomatic efforts to bring Levinson home."

In the video, a tired-looking and at times emotional Robert Levinson says "I have been treated well. But I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three and a half years." He says he is not in very good health and is "running very quickly out of diabetes medicine."

Since receiving the tape, the family has received some photos of Robert Levinson "dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit like the ones worn by detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba," the AP reports. His "hair and beard were much longer and he looked thinner. In each photo, he wore a different sign hung around his neck. One read, 'Why you can not help me.' "

Iranian and U.S. officials have held "discreet discussions" about Robert Levinson, the AP says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.