DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A U.S. Navy veteran from California has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran, his lawyer said Saturday, becoming the first American known to be imprisoned there since President Donald Trump took office.
Though the case against Michael R. White remains unclear, it comes as Trump has taken a hard-line approach to Iran by pulling the U.S. out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran, which in the past has used its detention of Westerners and dual nationals as leverage in negotiations, has yet to report on White’s sentence in state-controlled media. Its mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Obviously the concern is that the Iranians are using this as a tool against the United States, given the other individuals who are in custody,” Washington-based lawyer Mark Zaid told The Associated Press.
White’s arrest was first reported by IranWire, an online news service run by Iranian expatriates, which interviewed a former Iranian prisoner who said he met White at Vakilabad Prison in the northeastern city of Mashhad in October.
In the time since, White has been convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information online, Zaid said. He said the information surrounding the case remained vague. He learned of the sentence from the State Department, which in turn learned of it from the Swiss government, which looks after American
interests in Iran.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.