The White House on Tuesday made public its appeal to Iran to return a retired FBI agent, a Boise pastor and a former Marine being held in the country.
Saeed Abedinis wife, Nagmeh, and their two children live in Boise. Abedini, 33, detained since the summer of 2012, is in an Iranian prison.
Robert Levinson, the former FBI agent, disappeared during a business trip to Irans Kish Island in March 2007. The United States believes tht the private investigator and father of seven was abducted and is being held in Iran.
Levinsons case became a topic in recent negotiations between the U.S. and Iran aimed at addressing the Islamic countrys nuclear program and improving diplomatic ties.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama specifically raised Levinsons case, as well as those of Abedini and Amir Hekmati, during a telephone conversation earlier in the fall with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Hekmati is a U.S. citizen whose family lives in Michigan.
It is our view that all of these Americans should have the opportunity to come home, Earnest said while traveling with Obama in Los Angeles. The U.S. government has made a respectful request of the Iranian regime during this holiday season to consider on humanitarian grounds releasing these three Americans, or at least releasing the two Americans we know are detained and locating the whereabouts of the third, Mr. Levinson.
Abedini is a native of Iran who was convicted in January of undermining state security for his involvement in Christian home churches. He was sentenced to eight years.
Abedini, said to need medical care, recently was transferred from Evin prison to Rajai Shahr prison. The Rajai prison is described by human rights groups as an extremely brutal facility housing Irans most violent criminals, with excessive rates of inmate-on-inmate violence.
A written statement the White House released before Earnest spoke said the U.S. remains committed to finding and bringing home Levinson, who is from Coral Springs, Fla.
We respectfully ask the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist us in securing Mr. Levinsons health, welfare and safe return, the statement read.
Hekmatis sister, Sarah Hekmati, said Tuesday that she and her family hope more frequent discussions between U.S. and Iranian officials lead to her brothers release after more than two years.
We feel more reassured that Amirs case can be raised now with this bridge thats been built ... and we can be closer to a resolution, she said.