The family of Robert Levinson, an American who was kidnapped in Iran nearly six years ago, said they have released five previously unseen pictures of the ex-FBI agent in captivity because they fear people in Washington and Tehran have not made his freedom a priority.
The family received the photos from Levinson's unknown captors in 2011, but even now the shots of the 64-year-old father of seven in a prison jumpsuit with a long beard and wild gray hair are distressing to his children and wife Christine.
"They are very difficult to look at," said Christine Levinson. "Some of our daughters were crying to me about how upset they were to see them again."
There are five different photos, each staged with a different disturbing message by his captors. In each he holds a sign, one of which reads "Help me."
People involved in the case said the pictures, with references to Guantanamo, are designed to suggest he is being held by al Qaeda, although the same people are certain Levinson is in Iran, under the control of a cruel group of captors.
Said Levinson's son Dan Levinson, "He looked gaunt, he looked miserable and just like life has been tough right now and it's just very depressing to see him that way."
Cut off from the world, perhaps in some Iranian cell, Levinson likely does not know that he has a four-year-old grandchild or that his oldest daughter Susan, 35, is getting married next month.
Levinson, a private investigator, was on a business trip to the Iranian island of Kish in 2007, when he went missing.
Since then his family has mounted a worldwide campaign demanding that Iran set him free, pushing U.S. officials in a meeting in the Oval Office last March to negotiate for him.
The only sign of life from Levinson, who has diabetes, came in a hostage video posted on the internet a little over a year ago.
"Please help me get home," says Levinson in the video. "Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something. Please help me."
The family says it held off posting these newly released photos for fear his fate would turn into a partisan campaign issue.
Now, says his wife Christine, they are through waiting for the politicians to act.
"I wouldn't say [they've] dropped the ball," said Christine Levinson, "but I believe that more can be done. "
Authorities either do not know or have not publicly identified Levinson's suspected captors, but the U.S. government has repeatedly asked the Iranian government's help in finding him.
The Associated Press reported that intelligence officials suspect the Iranian government, specifically its intelligence services, was behind the production of the proof of life video and the newly released images.