UK's Dominic Raab calls for Anoosheh Ashoori's release on 4th anniversary of arrest

Family hold 'empty chair' protest at Downing Street and demand meeting with PM

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has called for the release of British-Iranian prisoner Anoosheh Ashoori, on the fourth anniversary of his detention in Iran.

Mr Ashoori, 67, is currently imprisoned in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison after being given a 10-year sentence in 2019 for spying – charges which the British government says are fabricated.

The plight of Mr Ashoori is similar to that of another dual national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is also being held in Iran, after being jailed for spying in 2016. She denied these charges.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was subsequently sentenced to a further year in prison and a one-year travel ban after being found guilty of “propaganda against the Iranian government".

The families of both detainees believe their relatives are being used as bartering tools over a £400 million debt owed by the UK following a 1970s deal to sell tanks to the Shah of Iran.

In a statement, Mr Raab described Mr Ashoori's detention as “arbitrary” and “wholly unjustified".

“Iran’s continued detention of Anoosheh Ashoori is wholly unjustified. We call on Iran to end his suffering and allow him to return home to be reunited with his wife Sherry, and children, Aryan and Elika,” he said.

“We are doing everything we can to secure the release of Anoosheh and other dual British nationals who have been arbitrarily detained. We call on President [Ebrahim] Raisi’s administration to start to set a new course for Iran by releasing them.”

On Friday, Mr Ashoori's family staged an “empty chair” protest at Downing Street in central London, as they urged UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to meet them to discuss their father's plight.

They were joined by Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe.

Mr Ashoori, who lived in London with his family, was detained in August 2017 after travelling to Iran to visit his mother. He was convicted of working on behalf of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad almost a year later.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Mr Ashoori attempted to kill himself three times in jail while being subjected to daily interrogation in solitary confinement. He also went on hunger strike for 17 days.

Updated: August 13th 2021, 2:19 PM
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