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    A US Navy Veteran Got Unexpected Help While Jailed in Iran. Once Released, He Repaid the Favor

    A US Navy Veteran Got Unexpected Help While Jailed in Iran. Once Released, He Repaid the Favor

    (AP) — Michael White had only recently arrived in a grim Iranian jail when a curious fellow prisoner, an English-speaking Iranian, approached him in the courtyard for a conversation.

    The American did not reveal much at first, but it was the beginning of an unlikely friendship between White, a Navy veteran imprisoned on spying charges he says were unfounded, and Mahdi Vatankhah, a young Iranian political activist whose positions on social issues had drawn his government's ire.

    As the men connected behind bars over a shared interest in politics and human rights, they developed a bond that proved vital for both.

    Vatankhah, while in custody and after his release, helped White by providing White's mother with crucial, firsthand accounts about her son's status in prison and by passing along letters White had written while he was locked up. Once freed, White did not forget. He pushed successfully this year for Vatankhah's admission to the United States, allowing the men to be reunited last spring inside a Los Angeles airport, something neither could have envisioned when they first met in prison years earlier.

    “He risked his life to get the information out for me when I was in the prison in . He really, really did,” White said in an interview alongside Vatankhah. “I told him I would do everything I could in my to get him here because I felt, one, that would be for his safety in his own life. And I…

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