A college professor held hostage by pro-Iranian extremists for nearly two years was dunned for taxes by the Internal Revenue Service, which warned he faced prosecution if he failed to pay up, his wife said Saturday.
Virginia Steen, wife of Beirut University College professor Alann Steen, said she received a letter last month from the IRS warning that Steen would be prosecuted if he did not settle his 1984 taxes within 30 days."The long computer-drafted letter was addressed to Alann. They were warning him that he had 30 days to settle his 1984 taxes or he would be prosecuted," said Mrs. Steen, a Beirut resident.
"At first I could not believe it, I was very angry, but then I said to myself, `It is a computer error, you can't talk to a computer and tell him Alann is a hostage' and my anger turned into laughter."
She said she later was assured by authorities at the U.S. Embassy and the IRS not to worry about it.
"I called the embassy in Beirut and talked to a very nice man who is responsible for these matters and he joked saying to me, `Fine. Let the IRS come and get your husband out to prosecute him.' We both laughed and laughed," she said.
Steen, 49, was one of four professors in the Beirut University College taken hostage in Beirut Jan. 24, 1987, by the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine. One of them, Indian-born Mithileshwar Singh, was released last month by the group.
Mrs. Steen, who teaches interior design at Beirut University College, said she believes her husband's 1984 taxes were paid long ago, "especially since we moved to Beirut in 1983. We were not in the states in 1984." But she said the letter indicated his tax bill had been compounding interest daily at 11 percent for four years.
"My feeling now is - first let the (U.S.) government get him out and then do what it wants with him," Mrs. Steen said.