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With U.S. hikers freed, Bill Nelson sees 'hope' for Broward man missing in Iran

The release Wednesday of two American hikers imprisoned for two years in Iran prompted Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter about Bob Levinson, the Coral Springs man who disappeared more than four years ago off an island in Iran.

Read the letter and a press release from Nelson's office after the jump:

RELEASE OF TWO HIKERS SPURS HOPE FOR FINDING FLORIDA MAN WHO DISAPPEARED IN IRAN

WASHINGTON, D.C. - With Wednesday’s release of two Americans hikers held for two years inside a Tehran prison, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson today expressed hope the Iranian government might now help secure the return of retired FBI agent Bob Levinson.  He’s the Florida resident who disappeared during a March 2007 business trip to Kish Island, a consumer and tourism spot off the southern coast of Iran.

On Thursday, Nelson released a letter he wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to push the issue of Levinson’s return at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.

“I hope you will be able to appeal to Tehran’s representatives to help reunite a husband and father with his wife Christine and their seven children,” Nelson wrote to Clinton.  “The Levinson family has suffered all too long.”

It’s unclear whether discussions will take place, because Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a bombastic anti-Western tirade in a speech to the UN Thursday.  According to the New York Times, it provoked what has become a ritual walkout of delegations led by the United States.   Ahmadinejad has been circumspect about what his country knows about Levinson.

It was Clinton who publicly noted this past March, on the fourth anniversary of Levinson’s disappearance, that the U.S. had received indications he was alive and being held somewhere in southwest Asia. 

The Iranian government previously offered its assistance with an investigation into his whereabouts and condition.  But there seemingly has been little progress.

For his part, Nelson has also met with Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations and has written Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urging him to see this as “a humanitarian case that transcends political differences.”  The Florida lawmaker got involved with the case at the request of the Levinson family.

The release of the American hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, came Wednesday after bail of $500,000 for each.  Both were convicted last month of entering Iran illegally and spying for the U.S.  But their sentences were commuted.

Following is the text of Nelson’s letter to Clinton:

September 22, 2011

The Honorable Hillary Clinton           

Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

With the release this week of two American hikers jailed in Iran for the past two years, our full attention now must turn to retired FBI agent Bob Levinson -- the Floridian who went missing during a March 2007 business trip to Kish Island off the coast of Iran.

As you publicly noted on the fourth anniversary of his disappearance, we have received indications that Bob is alive and is being held somewhere in southwest Asia.  The Iranian government has offered its assistance.  But so far there has been very little progress.

I have met with Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, and I have written Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asking him to see this as a humanitarian case that transcends political differences.

This week, during your meetings at the opening of the UN General Assembly, I hope you will be able to appeal to Tehran’s representatives there to help reunite a husband and father with his wife Christine and their seven children.  The Levinson family has suffered all too long.

Thank you again for your continuing attention to this most serious matter.

Sincerely,

(signature)

Bill Nelson

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