UK called to ‘redouble efforts’ to secure release of British dual citizen jailed in Iran

Mehran Raoof says Tehran is using detained dual citizens as ‘a valuable commodity’ to get ‘large sums of money’

Mehran Raoof has been held at Evin prison in Tehran since October 2020. Photo: Raoof family / Alamy
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Amnesty International has called on the UK government to “redouble its efforts” to secure the release of British-Iranian citizen Mehran Raoof, after he sent a letter from Evin prison in Iran denouncing the country's legal system and its treatment of people with dual citizenship.

Mr Ra0of, 66, a British-Iranian labour rights activist, has been arbitrarily detained in Iran since his arrest by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on October 16, 2020.

In August 2021, Mr Raoof — along with German-Iranian citizen Nahid Taghavi — was sentenced to 10 years and eight months in jail on national security-related charges after a trial that has been characterised as grossly unfair.

Amnesty considers him a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.

In his letter from Evin prison, which has been published by the Human Rights Activist News Agency, Mr Raoof says Iranian law enforcement is “subject to the interpretations and whims of those in power”, and that dual-citizen prisoners are used as “a valuable commodity” by authorities in their dealings with other countries.

Mr Raoof says people in Iran are being criminalised for their thoughts or peaceful activities, arbitrarily arrested, and taken to “special detention centre[s]” run by the Ministry of Intelligence or IRGC.

At these centres, they are held in “a solitary cell designed for ill treatment” and interrogated blindfolded or “facing the wall”, or in special rooms with “smoked glass where the accused cannot see the interrogators”.

Of his own arrest, Mr Raoof says that, contrary to Iran’s own laws, he was denied access to a lawyer for eight months, and for several months his family and relatives were “completely unaware” of his fate or whereabouts.

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He goes on to say that the Iranian government is “trying to get large sums of money for the exchange of dual nationals”.

In the letter, Mr Raoof also expresses frustration at what he says is a decision by Iranian authorities to exclude him and other dual citizens from an early-release programme.

“The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has said that Nahid’s detention is arbitrary,” said Mariam Claren, daughter of Mr Taghavi.

“Nahid and Mehran should not be in prison and I want to see concerted and co-ordinated action from the German and UK governments to press for their release.

“My mother is in poor health and his detention is having a devastating impact on her and our family.”

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks for first time since release from Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks for first time since release from Iran

“This powerful and distressing letter is yet another reminder to the UK government that it needs to redouble its efforts to secure the release of Mehran, Morad Tahbaz and other UK nationals arbitrarily detained overseas,” said Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive.

“For years, it’s been clear that the Iranian authorities have been arbitrarily detaining British nationals — along with people from the USA, Germany and elsewhere — and using them as diplomatic pawns.

“To know, as Mehran does, that dual nationals are being used as a ‘commodity’ by the Iranian authorities will be a shattering realisation and we need the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] to genuinely push for his and Morad’s release at every opportunity.”

This British-Iranian dual citizen was detained in Iran for nearly five years — video

This British-Iranian dual citizen was detained in Iran for nearly five years

This British-Iranian dual citizen was detained in Iran for nearly five years

“Being a trade unionist should not be a crime, and Mehran should never have been detained let alone sentenced for ten-plus years for peacefully advocating for workers’ rights in Iran,” said Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Raoof’s MP.

“Just last week, the Foreign Affairs Committee published its report ‘Stolen years: combating state hostage diplomacy’, which refers to Mehran and Morad Tahbaz as two British nationals who’ve been left behind in Iran.

“Mehran is approaching the one-third point of his sentence and is now eligible for release — here is an important opportunity for the UK to take long-overdue action on Mehran’s case and press for his immediate release.”

Updated: April 13, 2023, 7:21 PM