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Family of hostage asking Obama for help

Thursday - 1/10/2013, 7:29am  ET

levinson640.jpg
Bob Levinson has been in captivity for six years. He is believed to have been kidnapped by the Iranian government. (Courtesy Levinson Family)

J.J. Green, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The wife of a former FBI agent, believed to have been kidnapped by the Iranian government, is pleading with President Barack Obama to help.

If she could speak to Mr. Obama: "I would ask him to please get Bob home," says Christine Levinson.

The Levinson family has posted a petition on its website Help Bob Levinson aimed at convincing the Obama Administration to "Make rescuing US Citizen Robert Levinson being held hostage in the Middle East since 2007 a top priority."

Not only has Levinson, 64, from Coral Springs, Fla., been in captivity for almost six years, he has diabetes that Christine Levinson believes may have triggered some other problem.

"Most recently, I heard that about a year ago, he was getting fresh air and sunshine, and he was seeing a doctor three times a week," she says.

But that is not a source of comfort to her.

"To me the red flag is seeing a doctor three times a week," she says.

"Anybody I know in that situation has some medical issue, and I'm hoping that is not the case, but if it is, we need Bob home now to address whatever it might be."

Levinson worked as a private investigator following his retirement from the FBI in 1998. He traveled to Kish Island, Iran, on March 8, 2007, working on behalf of several large corporations. His whereabouts, well-being and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance have been in question since then.

The Levinson family released pictures of him this week that Christine Levinson says she received in April of 2011 from an anonymous email.

"The FBI says the email came from Pakistan, but they don't know who sent it because it's very easy to hand somebody money there and have them send an email," she says.

But she says she does not believe her husband is in Pakistan.

When pressed on why they waited a year to release the images, even though they believe him to be in poor health, she responded, "They don't really serve any purpose except to let us know he is alive, and to tell us whatever they wanted to tell us, but they don't help get him home."

She says her family is frustrated at the slow pace of the investigation.

"I know the FBI is working every day to try and find Bob and get more information about Bob. Unfortunately that hasn't happened. The State Department and the White House do work on this diplomatically, but as you know the United States does not have direct contact with Iran," Christine Levinson says.

Since the U.S. has no formal relationship with the Iranian government, it depends on the Swiss government as a protecting power on matters that relate to Iran.

"So everything has to go through the Swiss and that takes a lot of time. So to me and my family, the urgency seems to be lost," she says.

"We need somebody to get this done now and to work on the case every day to find out what Iran wants for Bob to get him home."

Christine Levinson has spoken with the Swiss government, but came away disappointed.

"I have met with them in the past and they have no information about Bob either, because the Iranian government has not come forward with any information about Bob," she says.

Speaking with WTOP in late 2011, a representative of the Swiss team that engages the Iranian government told WTOP, "We provide a confidential channel between the two governments which are not on speaking terms with each other."

The Swiss representative, who was in Washington for briefings with U.S. foreign policy leaders in 2011 and returned in late 2012, said, "When there is a reason for the Iranian government to communicate something to the U.S., they call me in immediately."

Another reason for Christine Levinson's heightened sense of urgency is the stream of big family moments that are taking take place, while her husband is in captivity.

"It's one more year that we have not had Bob home with us and have not been able to get him home, and it's compounded by the fact that our daughter is getting married in February. The family is heartbroken," she says.

Beyond their own family issues she believes he deserves better, "because we want people to remember that he is still being held against his will. That it's almost six years. That he is a good man, and he has had no human rights afforded him, and it's just not right for anyone to be in that position," she says.

WTOP contacted the Swiss government about this week's developments, but it had no comment about the matter.

The Washington Field Office of the FBI, which is handling Levinson's case, says "the investigation continues to locate Bob and bring him back safely to his family."

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