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The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Bahram Ghasemi initially said in January that U.S. Navy veteran Michael White faced a private lawsuit, but he was sentenced this week on other charges. Photo by Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA
March 16 (UPI) — Iranian authorities sentenced U.S. Navy veteran Michael White to 10 years in prison for allegedly insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and disclosing private information by posting a phone of a woman he was visiting on Instagram.

White, 46, a native of San Diego, was arrested last July in Mashhad, Iran during his third visit with the woman. White had been imprisoned at Iran’s Vakilabad Prison, known for its execution of drug traffickers, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Jonathan Franks, a White family spokesman, said the family had been told that White has been beaten and interrogated about his naval service and Iranian officials have refused to let him contact family.

Franks said that the Swiss Embassy in Tehran visited White in February after the family learned that he was detained there a month earlier.

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Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing White’s family, on Thursday said he learned Monday that White, who worked in Navy Aviation maintenance administration for 13 years, was convicted in a trial without notice beforehand and given a local lawyer to represent him who did not speak English.

White has 22 days to appeal the court’s actions, according to Zaid.

“We are just learning of information concerning Michael’s sentence,” Zaid told USA Today. “After receiving news of the conviction, we’re in the process of hiring a local Iranian attorney to pursue whatever appeals exist. It’s unclear at this time whether Michael is simply an unfortunate foreigner caught in a very different legal system or being used as a political pawn.”

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Family members have expressed concern for White’s health, who is a cancer survivor.

Mashhad’s prosecutor Gholamali Sadeghi initially told the Mehr News Agency in January that White had a “private plaintiff” in a lawsuit against him and that the government did not have a case against him at that time.

Iran has a history of arresting foreign nationals and dual-nationals visiting the country on vague security-related charges with most later being convicted for spying or other conspiracy charges against the government.

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