A Jordanian sailor declared dead after his ship sank 28 years ago is believed to be in prison in Iran, his family and the Jordanian government said Tuesday. July 14, 2004- “Jordan had contacted the Islamic government officials about the missing sailor Youssef Waswas Masharqa, but the Iranians had replied "they still don't have information on this case,” according to Jordan’s foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Ayed.
Masharqa disappeared after his ship sank in Iranian waters in 1976, reportedly after being hit by Iranian missiles. His nephew Montasser Masharqa says he was declared dead after the Iranians reported no survivors.
But an Iranian visitor told his family in 1996 that Youssef was “alive and being held on the ground floor of a central Tehran prison in cell number three along with three other Jordanians and a Yemeni, Montasser recalled, adding that Jordanian government and human rights groups were immediately informed.
The details the Iranian provided, including scars on Yousef’s face, the color of his eyes and his mother's name confirmed Yousef’s identity for the family.
"My uncle told us through this Iranian man that he survived the ship sinking, but that he was hospitalized for nine months and later taken to jail," Montasser added.
The plight of Youssef, who would now be 54, became public knowledge only on Tuesday when the Jordanian newspaper Alarab Alyawm published a story on his family’s appeals to the government to secure his release. The paper reprinted a letter, dated May 27, 2004, from Montasser to the foreign minister.
At the time of his disappearance, Youssef was working for al-Chamsi Maritime and General Trade Co. in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“For us, Yousef was dead until that good Iranian man told us he was still alive,” Mosharaqa told the Associated Press, calling for Iran to release his uncle.