According to the federal lawsuit, Michael White was subjected to "prolonged and constant" abuse behind bars. He claims that he was punched and beaten, whipped on his feet and forced into false confessions that he was a spy for U.S. government.
The complaint claims mirror those made by White in a 156 page manuscript that he wrote behind bars. This was later obtained and published by The Associated Press.
White was accused of traveling to Iran in a 31-page complaint. He claims that White was lured there by a woman who he thought was his girlfriend in order to be kidnapped and held in Iranian prison cells. White was charged with insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader and cooperating against the U.S. government in Iran. The lawsuit claims that these charges were invented. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
White's arrest is also alleged to have been an Iranian attempt to obtain concessions from Trump's administration and "manufacture additional leverage diplomacy" after Iran's 2018 withdrawal from a landmark nuclear agreement with the U.S. Diplomats are currently trying to salvage a deal that would bring Iran back in compliance with its nuclear program limits.
The lawsuit was filed in Washington, D.C. federal court. White was joined by his mother, and his two brothers as plaintiffs.
It was unclear if Iran intended to respond to the complaint in writing, or if there was a lawyer available to appear in court. White could be awarded damages from the fund for victims of state-sponsored terrorist acts if Iran doesn't respond to the allegations.
In June 2020 , the State Department secured his release and flew him back to the U.S. in a deal that avoided additional time in prison for an American-Iranian physician convicted in the U.S. for sanctions violations. White was later filmed appearing on videotape at the Republican National Convention that summer, along with other hostages and detainees released during Trump's administration.