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White House demands release of US prisoners in Iran or face 'serious consequences'

By Miranda Green

CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House is demanding the release of all Americans currently being held in Iran and says President Donald Trump is "prepared to impose new and serious" consequences on the country if they are not released and returned.

A statement released by the White House Friday said the Trump administration is "redoubling" its efforts to bring home Americans "unjustly detained" abroad.

The statement mentioned three Americans specifically by name: Robert Levinson and Siamak and Baquer Namazi. Levinson has been held captive in Iran for over 10 years and The Namazis were taken during the Obama administration, according to the statement.

"The United States condemns hostage takers and nations that continue to take hostages and detain our citizens without just cause or due process. For nearly forty years, Iran has used detentions and hostage taking as a tool of state policy, a practice that continues to this day with the recent sentencing of Xiyue Wang to ten years in prison," the statement read.

The statement urged that Iran is responsible for the care and well being of all US citizens it has in its custody. It added that Trump is willing to impose new consequence unless all "unjustly imprisoned' American citizens are released by Iran.

Another American, Chinese-born Xiyue Wang, was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran after being convicted of spying. Wang was arrested in Iran last summer while doing scholarly research in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation, a Princeton University statement said.

The White House announcement comes at the heels of a new administration policy -- banning Americans from visiting another country known for imprisoning Americans -- North Korea.

The State Department announced on Friday it will authorize a geographical travel on US nationals visiting the country because of "mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention."

The decision follows the June release of US citizen Otto Warmbier, who was arrested last year while on a sightseeing tour to North Korea. After being held prisoner by North Korea for 17 months, Warmbier was handed over to the US in a vegetative state. He died a few days later in Ohio.

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