G7 leaders urged to speak out on prisoners held in Iran

Dual citizens face closed-door trial as leaders of advanced economies meet in the UK

The trial of dual-citizens Mehran Raoof, left, and German Nahid Taghavi were delayed until after presidential elections. Supplied
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Family and friends of two European dual citizens scheduled to face an Iranian court this weekend urged G7 leaders to demand that Tehran frees all of its illegally-detained foreigners.

Nahid Taghavi, 66, a German dual citizen, and Briton Mehran Raoof, 64, are due in court for a closed-door trial on Sunday after their arrest eight months ago in a purge of labour and human rights activists in Tehran.

Mr Raoof, who appeared in court in April with Ms Taghavi and three others, faces a sentence of 10 years in jail if convicted of being the leader of an outlawed communist cell.

Their supporters called on G7 leaders to take advantage of their rare face-to-face gathering during the Covid-19 crisis to rebuke Iran.

Dual citizens from five of the G7 members – Canada, Germany, France, the UK and US – are held in Iran.

The families of foreign and dual citizen prisoners held in Iran have called on governments not to engage in talks with Tehran, including efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, unless they are freed.

Four of the G7 members were original signatories to the deal.

The trials resume on Sunday, which is the final day of the summit in Cornwall, south-west England.

Mariam Claren, the daughter of Nahid Taghavi, said it was time for Germany and other western nations to make a stand after failing to protect her mother from wrongful prosecution.

“It’s interesting that the trial date is when the G7 is in the UK and that the JCPOA talks are taking place,” she said.

“I want to know what are the red lines that Iran has to cross before German and western governments act on human rights issues – or is just all about money and business?

“The German government failed in protecting my mother and now, eight months later, she will go on trial.”

Satar Rahmani, who is campaigning to free Mr Raoof, said any signal from G7 would be listened to by the Iranian government as it prepares for presidential elections next week.

"If they [the G7] put pressure on, that would help a lot," he said. "They listen to all the news from outside of Iran."

G7 foreign ministers called for the release of dual citizens in May, but the topic has not featured in advanced publicity for talks this weekend.

The summit is likely to be dominated by the global coronavirus vaccination programme, rebuilding economies damaged by the pandemic and efforts to confront climate change.

At least 15 dual citizens are believed to be held by Iran, and their arrests normally conclude with secret trials on false national security charges and long sentences, human rights groups said.

Detentions are often used as bargaining chips to secure Iran’s broader diplomatic goals.

Mr Raoof has been held in solitary confinement at Tehran’s Evin jail for most of the eight months since he was detained. He has been denied a face-to-face meeting with his lawyer, his supporters said.

Ms Taghavi has spent time in both solitary confinement and a women’s wing, where she was returned three weeks ago.

She had a 30-minute meeting with her legal adviser this week but told her daughter she was limited in what she could say as she feared their discussions were being monitored.