Reps. Deutch, Ros-Lehtinen Hold Hearing on Bob Levinson, Other Americans Held in Iran
(Washington) Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22), Ranking Member of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, held a hearing titled “Held for Ransom: The Families of Iran’s Hostages Speak Out.” Doug Levinson, son of Bob Levinson of Coral Springs, testified alongside others with detained family members.
Bob Levinson, missing for over 10 years, is the longest held American civilian hostage in history. Congressman Deutch introduced a resolution calling on the Iranian government to do more to bring Bob home safely to his family.
Congressman Deutch's opening remarks can be viewed by clicking the image. A transcript of his remarks can be found below.
"Thank you, Madam Chairman.
"I want to thank you for holding this hearing today.
"You have been a champion for these families and the families of so many others who have been wrongfully held or imprisoned by rogue regimes.
"You have been a steadfast partner in advocating for the release of my constituent Bob Levinson, and I am most grateful for your unwavering support.
"To Doug, Babak, and Omar – thank you for being here today to share the stories of your fathers and brother.
"None of us can imagine what your families go through every single day.
"Your testimony today will give this Congress and the American people a small window into the unimaginable reality that you face each day.
"Just last week we learned that Iran has taken another American citizen, convicted him in some undisclosed, sham trial, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
"Hostage taking is not a game that responsible nations play.
"Iran’s outrageous disregard for international law should give every country, every company – especially every American company, pause as to whether this is a country they should welcome back into the community of nations.
"Siamak Namazi has been detained since November 2015.
"His father, Baquer, has been detained since February 2016. Baquer was detained at 80 years old, a mere 6 weeks after the deal that saw five Americans previously being held by Iran released in January of last year. His health, unfortunately, is poor.
"Neither were afforded due process, and this family has still not been made aware of the exact charges against them.
"This is not rule of law, this is hostage taking.
"Nizar Zakka is an internet freedom activist. He was invited to Iran to participate in a conference and was subsequently detained.
"Can you imagine? Invited to a country, and then arrested with no cause.
"Iran first acknowledged holding Nizar on November 3, 2015.
"Like Siamak and the recently sentenced Xiyue Wang, Nizar has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
"Bob Levinson has been missing for 10 years. Bob went missing from Kish Island, Iran on March 9, 2007.
"Bob and his wife Christine live in my district – in Coral Springs, Florida.
"Bob is a patriot in every sense of the word. He devoted 28 years of his life to government service, first at the DEA and then 22 years at the FBI.
"I have come to know the Levinson family well over the past 7 years. Bob’s wife of over 40 years, Christine, is here today, as well as Bob’s eldest son, Dan.
"Not here today are Bob’s five other children, Susan, Stephanie, Sarah, Samantha, and David.
"Sarah recently gave birth to Bob’s newest grandchild. He was born on July 4th, a date that certainly makes Bob proud.
"Last year, Bob’s namesake, 3 year old Bobby, underwent treatment for cancer.
"Just a few months ago, Bob’s son David had his first child. The baptism is next week.
"Bob has missed all of these milestones. Imagine, 10 years without your husband, your father, your grandfather.
"We will hear what that has been like from Doug, who was only 13 at the time Bob disappeared.
"No family should have to endure 10 years of unanswered questions, 10 years of watching others come home. And 10 years of being left behind.
"I’ve sat in this room countless times over the years and talked about Bob.
"I’ve talked about him on the House floor.
"I won’t stop talking about Bob.
"I won’t stop calling on Iran to once and for all send Bob home.
"Iran may claim they don’t know where Bob is, but they know how to find him and they know how to get him home.
"We need action. Bob can no longer be left behind.
"And today, I’d like you to hear directly from Bob.
"In 2010, the Levinsons received the video you are about to see. In it you will see Bob, under duress, pleading for his country to help him.
[PROOF OF LIFE VIDEO CLIP]
"It’s hard to watch.
"But it is important that the world see Bob - that they see more than a name in a newspaper article.
"That they see the husband, the father, the grandfather, the American public servant.
"I implore this Administration to make bringing Bob home a priority.
"Despite our policy disagreements with Iran, bringing home Bob, Siamak, Baquer, and Nizar, and the other Americans detained in Iran, must always be on the top of the agenda.
"Doug, Babak, Omar, I can only hope that by providing each of you a chance to tell your families’ story today, we can send a message that the release of these Americans is a priority for this Congress, it’s a priority for the American people, and we will not stop until they are home.
"I yield back."