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US veteran detained in Iran on security-related charges

Iranian prosecutor says Michael White was detained last year after a 'private complaint' and is being probed over security-related issues
White's family said he suffers from acute asthma and had undergone chemotherapy for a tumour shortly before his latest visit to Iran (CBS)

A US naval veteran detained in Iran last July is being investigated on possible security charges, an Iranian prosecutor has been quoted as saying, in a case that could further strain relations between Tehran and Washington.

Gholamali Sadeqi, prosecutor in the northeastern city of Mashhad, said on Friday that authorities were investigating security-related accusations against Michael White, according to the official news agency Mehr.

Sadeqi also said White, 46, had been arrested because of a "private complaint" filed against him.

In the past, "private complaints" filed by the Revolutionary Guards or other security bodies have led to arrests of activists and the closure of newspapers.

Tehran has yet to officially react to the release of a US-born journalist for Iran's state-run Press TV who was detained in Washington earlier this month.

A US court order on Thursday said she had been freed after testifying in an undisclosed federal investigation.

Iran confirmed White's arrest earlier this month after the New York Times (NYT) reported that he had been arrested in July while visiting his Iranian girlfriend.

White's mother, Joanne, told the NYT her son had visited Iran "five or six times" to meet his girlfriend.

She reported her son's disappearance after he failed to return in July, but learned from the State Department only in December that he was being held in Iran.

White's family said he suffers from acute asthma and that he had undergone chemotherapy for a neck tumour shortly before his latest visit to Iran.

'New and serious consequences'

The US State Department said earlier this month it was "aware of reports" of his detention but declined to release details, citing privacy considerations.

London-based news website IranWire has reported that White was being poorly treated in prison - an allegation Tehran has denied.

Ties between Tehran and Washington took a turn for the worse following US President Donald Trump's decision last May to pull out of an international nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran.

White joins at least three other US citizens, two of them of Iranian descent, in detention in Iran.

Another US man has been missing in Iran for over a decade.

Trump warned in 2017 that Tehran would face "new and serious consequences" unless all unjustly held US citizens were freed, the Reuters news agency reported.