Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Family of Iran prisoner Anoosheh Ashoori call on UK government not to forget him

The 65-year-old was not among the 85,000 Iranian prisoners granted furlough on Tuesday

Anoosheh Ashoori with his wife before his arrest in Iran in 2017. Image provided by family
Anoosheh Ashoori with his wife before his arrest in Iran in 2017. Image provided by family

The family of a British-Iranian engineer imprisoned in Iran have called for his case not to be forgotten as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was granted temporary release.

Dual national Anoosheh Ashoori was not among the 85,000 prisoners to be released on Tuesday by the Iranian authorities as Tehran struggles to contain the outbreak of coronavirus.

The Iranian judiciary said 50 per cent of those released were political prisoners but have not provided official lists.

The family of US-Iranian citizen Siamak Namazi told The National that he had not been released. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, the British-Australian academic who has been detained since 2018, was reportedly also not freed.

Mr Ashoori, Mr Namazi and Ms Moore-Gilbert are all being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where coronavirus is feared to have spread.

Sherry Izadi, the wife of Mr Ashoori, said her husband had been moved last week to a ward in Evin where coronavirus victims had been.

Mr Ashoori, 65, told his wife that when he moved to the ward, conditions were “disgusting”. Some cleaning has since taken place and a hand sanitiser installed, although Mr Ashoori believes it had been diluted with water.

“Despite what they say, there is coronavirus there – they can’t deny it. It’s just a matter of how it will be contained, which as you can see from the news it has not really been,” Ms Izadi told The National.

“The dual nationals are important to them [the regime] as bargaining chips. I would have thought they would pay more attention to their health but obviously not.”

Mr Ashoori was arrested in 2017 and jailed for 12 years after the Iranian authorities accused him of spying for Mossad. He denies the charges against him.

British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe seen at her parent's home, in Tehran. Free Nazanin Campaign
British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe seen at her parent's home, in Tehran. Free Nazanin Campaign

The families of Mr Ashoori and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe believe their future prospects are linked to the payment of a near £400 million debt owed by the UK to Iran.

The debt is part of a decades-long dispute over the non-delivery of tanks and arms following the 1979 revolution.

Iran’s ambassador to the UK Hamid Baeidinejad said on Sunday that bilateral talks had begun to try to find a way for the UK to pay the debt that does not breach sanctions.

Anoosheh Ashoori (far-right) with his family in the UK before his arrest and detention in Iran. Image provided by family
Anoosheh Ashoori (far-right) with his family in the UK before his arrest and detention in Iran. Image provided by family

Ms Izadi organised a peaceful protest outside the UK Foreign Office on Wednesday, calling for action to be taken to secure the permanent release of her husband and other dual nationals.

“I know that people are occupied with their own problems, which is quite understandable. But we would like to bring the Foreign Office out of their state of inaction. It will make them understand that this issue is important to us,” she said.

“We also want to highlight the state of the prison. If you think it’s bad to be isolated at home for 14 days, imagine what it’s like to be isolated for 1,000 days.”

Mr Ashoori’s son Aryan said he was concerned that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s temporary release would lead to his father’s and other dual nationals’ cases being forgotten.

“While we congratulate the Ratcliffes & welcome Nazanin’s temporary release, Dominic Raab and the Foreign Office have FAILED to also secure #FreeAnoosheh & we’re worried they will use this moment as a media stunt & forget us. After a week of bilateral talks, WHERE IS OUR DAD’S FURLOUGH?” he tweeted.

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, also attended the demonstration.

He spoke of his joy at being able to speak to his wife over a video call and for their daughter, Gabriella, to speak to her mum.

"It was lovely to catch up again," he told BBC radio on Wednesday. "It was lovely to be a bit more normal again."

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in Tehran in 2016, has been released with an ankle tag until April 4. Her movements have been restricted to within 300 metres of her parents’ home in Iran.

“Being out is so much better than being in – if you knew what hell this place is. It is mental,” she said in a statement.

“Let us hope it will be the beginning of coming home.”

Updated: March 18, 2020 09:21 PM

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