By Justen Charters
Since Saturday, the news of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release for five senior Taliban officials has prompted much discussion. While many people are waiting for the latest information here at home on #Bergdahlgate, there are more Americans being held against their will in foreign nations.
Here are just seven of them:
#1 Robert Levinson – Prisoner In Iran
Levinson is a former federal agent with the FBI and DEA. In 2007, he was captured in Iran by an unknown organization. According to the US government, he was working for the CIA at the time, investigating a cigarette smuggling operation. Levinson remains the longest-held hostage in U.S. history.
#2 Kenneth Bae – Prisoner in North Korea
Kenneth Bae was determined to give hope to North Koreans. However in 2012, state officials caught on to the Christian missionary’s efforts, and accused him of trying to overthrow the country’s leadership. Among the charges against him are evangelizing against the government and conducting a smear campaign. Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison camp.
#3 Warren Weinstein – Being Held By Al-Qaeda
Weinstein was a consultant working in Lahore, Pakistan. In 2011, Weinstein’s wife received a phone call from his former boss with some heartbreaking news: her husband had been kidnapped. Shortly after Weinstein’s abduction, Bin Laden’s replacement Ayman Al-Zawahiri announced that Al-Qaeda was holding him. In December of 2013, Al-Qaeda released its latest proof of life video for Weinstein.
#4 USMC Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi – Prisoner In Mexico
In late May of 2014, Sgt. Tahmooressi made a fateful (and accidental) wrong turn while driving near the Mexican border and ended up at a border crossing point in Tijuana. Mexico boasts strict gun-control laws, and found three firearms in Tahmooressi’s vehicle. If convicted, he faces 21 years in prison. A White House petition to free the captive Marine has since reached over 100,000 signatures.
#5 Amir Hekmati – Prisoner In Iran
Amir Hekmati is a former US Marine. The Iranian government alleged that he was spying for the CIA and sentenced him to death. Fortunately for Hekmati, they rescinded the death sentence, changing it to 10 years in prison. Hekmati has spent over 1,000 days imprisoned, more than twice as long as those who were held by Iran during the embassy crisis in 1979.
#6 Alan Gross – Prisoner In Cuba
In 2009, Alan Gross was arrested in Cuba for distributing internet and communications materials. Gross was working in the country on behalf of the US Agency for International Development. He’s described the treatment he’s received as inhumane, and has called on President Obama numerous times to “free him”.
#7 Caitlin Coleman – Prisoner in Afghanistan
In 2012, Caitlin Coleman was traveling pregnant with her husband Joshua in Afghanistan, when they were abducted. The last time Caitlin’s loved ones heard from her was before her kidnapping. On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that it had received two videos from Caitlin’s family, in which both she and her husband plead for the US government to help secure their release.
With the recent turn of events involving Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, we can only hope that Americans who remain held against their will abroad receive the same level of consideration from our government.