Campaigners urge Iran to release detained engineer over health concerns

The authorities have refused outside dental treatment for dual-national Anoosheh Ashoori

Anoosheh Ashoori with his wife before his arrest in Iran in 2017. He has spent three years in Evin jail. Image provided by family
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Iran faces new calls to release a detained British-Iranian prisoner for health treatment after he exposed the chaotic and unhygienic conditions inside Evin jail during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anoosheh Ashoori, 66, has chronic dental problems that require regular check-ups, but the Iranian authorities have refused to let him leave the prison for treatment.

Mr Ashoori has been told he must see in-house dentists but his UK-based family likened them to “15th century butchers” who used the same unsterilised equipment for a string of patients.

Mr Ashoori was detained in 2017 and jailed for 10 years accused of spying on Iran after being subjected to torture and ill treatment during interrogation, according to his supporters.

His family say that he is being held as a hostage to force the UK into settling a near £400 million debt dating from an aborted 1970s arms deal to the pre-revolution Shah of Iran.

His British MP, Janet Daby, has said his detention was “part of Iran’s hostage diplomacy drive which is linked to other matters of disputes between the UK and Iran, most notably the historical arms debt”.

Rights group Amnesty International has urged its supporters to lobby Iran’s ambassador to the UK to release Mr Ashoori or allow him to receive treatment outside prison.

“Prior to his detention, Anoosheh Ashoori had extensive dental work done including surgeries on his gums, which require ongoing specialized dental care unavailable in prison,” said the Amnesty petition.

“Despite this, prison authorities have refused to transfer him to a specialist dental facility for treatment. His family fears that he might lose half his teeth if left untreated.”

In a recorded message from prison, Mr Ashoori said in April that dentists at the prison required payment for all treatment other than pulling teeth.

He said some of dentists inside the jail were known for lining up 10 inmates and pulling out their teeth in one session.