“I am to happy announce that Navy Veteran, Michael White, who has been detained by Iran for 683 days, is on a Swiss plane that just left Iranian Airspace. We expect him to be home with his family in America very soon,” Trump said in a social media statement.
“I will never stop working to secure the release of all Americans held hostage overseas!” he added, thanking Swiss authorities for their assistance.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters in Washington that the release signaled “a great day for this country.”
Whites release was part of an agreement involving an Iranian-American doctor prosecuted by the Justice Department, and followed months of quiet negotiations over prisoners.
Iran and the United States battled last year in Iraq and have been at odds throughout the Trump administration, which withdrew from a nuclear deal that was criticized as ineffective.
Whites mother, Joanne White, thanked the State Department and Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and onetime Republican New Mexico governor, for helping get her son released.
Richardson said in a statement to the Associated Press that the “release should have and could have been done earlier, but I am glad and relieved that Mike is on his way home to get treated.”
White was diagnosed with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, but has been recovering.
The California man said he fell in love with a woman online and traveled to Iran to meet her. He was imprisoned for allegedly insulting one of Irans top officials before being sentenced to 10 years in jail.
“Simply put, the charges against Michael were pretexts for a state-sponsored kidnap-for-ransom scheme,” family spokesman Jon Franks said in a statement Thursday obtained by the AP. “The tragedy of this case is Michaels only only crime was falling in love with Iran and its people for whom he cares deeply.”
White was released from jail on medical furlough in March after testing positive for the virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19.