Iran confirmed Wednesday it is holding U.S. Navy veteran Michael R. White at a prison in the country, making him the first American known to be detained under President Donald Trump’s administration.
White’s detention adds new pressure to the rising tension between Iran and the U.S., which under Trump has pursued a maximalist campaign against Tehran that includes pulling out of its nuclear deal with world powers.
While the circumstances of White’s detention remain unclear, Iran in the past has used its detention of Westerners and dual nationals as leverage in negotiations.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency, believed to be close to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, reported the confirmation, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.
“An American citizen was arrested in the city of Mashhad some time ago and his case was conveyed to the U.S administration on the first days” of his incarceration, Ghasemi was quoted as saying.
White, of Imperial Beach, California, was captured by authorities in late July while visiting his Iranian girlfriend, his mother told NBC News. She didn’t want to give more details about his detention in case it would put him in danger.
His arrest was first reported by an online news service by Iranian expatriates who interviewed a former Iranian prisoner who said he met White at Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad in October.
The Associated Press has been unable to reach members of White’s family. The State Department said it was aware of reports of an American citizen’s arrest, but was otherwise unable to comment.