Activist says U.S. Navy veteran on hunger strike in Iranian prison

London — An activist with sources inside an Iranian prison said Friday that U.S. Navy veteran Michael White has gone on hunger strike to protest his detention in the Islamic Republic, which Iran‘s government has yet to fully explain. Cyberactivist Ivar Farhadi told CBS News that White began his strike on Thursday.

It was Farhadi who first broke the news in December of White’s imprisonment, tweeting that he had met the California native in prison in the Vakilabad Prison in the city of Mashhad.

A representative for the White family in the United States could not immediately be reached on Friday morning to confirm that he was on hunger strike.

Farhadi said he had heard from sources inside the jail that White, 46, planned to continue the strike indefinitely, to protest “his uncertain situation” and the “anti-human condition” of his detention — including being held without any knowledge of charges against him — if any have even been formally filed.

Iran’s government has given very little information on White’s arrest, but a judicial official said in January that he was being sued by a private plaintiff, referring to a complaint by a citizen, not the government. He did not, however, rule out possible “security-related charges.”

White worked as a cook for the Navy but left the service about a decade ago, according to a spokesman for his family. Both his family and U.S. officials have insisted White is not and never has been a spy. The spokesman, Jonathan Franks, said White had recently worked as a janitor.

Mother of American held in Iran fears for her son’s health

White’s mother Joanne told CBS News in January that she prays every day that her son will be freed from prison in Iran before it’s too late. She said she worried his recurring cancer might come back and he could die. Joanne White has said her son was on his third trip to visit a girlfriend in Iran in July when he was arrested.

A statement released this week by Franks, the White family spokesman, said they had learned more about his arrest and “the beatings he endured after his arrest.  We also know he’s been taken to Iranian Court twice. The proceedings have been entirely in Farsi, and no translator, much less an attorney was provided.”

“We continue to believe his health status is declining, continue to be concerned about a recurrence of his cancer as well several other potentially life threatening conditions,” the statement said, noting that a website had been set up seeking donations to help the family pay legal fees and provide extra food for White in prison.

The family said donations would be transmitted via the State Department to the Swiss Embassy in Iran, which handles U.S. consular affairs as Washington has no formal diplomatic relations with the country.

The statement said any money left over would be donated “to an A rated veterans charity.”

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