Robert Levinson’s family announced the sad news in a statement today. Mr Levinson disappeared in Iran 13 years ago from the island of Kish off Iran’s southern coast.
He was the longest-held hostage in US history.
But Trump has disputed the claims that Mr Levinson is dead, in an unexpected turn of events.
On Wednesday at the White House, he said: “I’ve been very much involved in that and he was a great gentleman and a great family.
“It’s not looking good, he wasn’t well for years in Iran, it’s not looking promising.”
The president added: “But Robert Levinson, who was outstanding, has been sick for a long time.
“He had some rough problems prior to his detainment or capture.
“It’s not looking great, but I won’t accept that he’s dead.
“They haven’t told us he’s dead.”
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Trump had in November tweeted calling for Iran to release Levinson.
The plea, however, fell on deaf ears.
The reason for his being in Kish is disputed.
His family say he was working on behalf of an unauthorised CIA mission.
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They say he had been working in Kish as a private investigator looking at cigarette counterfeiting in the region.
He retired from the FBI in 1998.
Other reports suggest he was working for the CIA to recruit an Iranian spy.
US officials suspected he was kidnapped by Iranian intelligent forces to be used as a bargaining chip in dealings with Washington.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Levinson’s family said they had received information from US officials that had led them to conclude he had died in Iranian custody.
They said: “It is impossible to describe our pain.
“Our family will spend the rest of our lives without the most amazing man we have ever known, a new reality that is inconceivable to us.
“His grandchildren will never meet him. They will only know him through the stories we tell them.
“If not for the cruel, heartless actions of the Iranian regime, Robert Levinson would be alive and home with us today.”
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