LONDON: The wife of a British citizen held in an Iranian jail for four years has pleaded with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to show he “genuinely cares” by securing his release.
Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, has been in “hell,” his family said, since he was arrested on a visit to Iran and later convicted of spying for Israel — charges he denies.
He is now four years into a 10-year sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, which is often used for detained dual nationals.
During his time in jail, there have been serious concerns about Ashoori’s health, particularly as COVID-19 ravaged Iran’s prison system.
In a letter to The Times, his wife Sherry Izadi insisted that the charges against him are entirely fabricated, and accused Johnson of avoiding a request for a meeting to discuss the case.
“Boris Johnson says that the plight of Anoosheh ... ‘remains a top priority.’ Yet actions speak louder than words,” Izadi wrote.
“It has been more than a year since our family requested a meeting with the prime minister. He is apparently unable to meet us.”
Johnson did meet with Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, last year. She remains in detention in Iran, and is currently on bail and living in her parents’ Tehran home while she awaits news of her fate.
Last month, an Iranian newspaper suggested that Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe were being considered for a prisoner swap along with American detainees, but this was publicly denied by the US.
The British Foreign Office said it has raised Ashoori’s case with Tehran. A spokesperson said: “Iran’s continued arbitrary detention of our dual nationals is unacceptable and is a stain on Iran’s international reputation. We urge the Iranian authorities to do the right thing and release the detainees.”
Tehran faces regular criticism for its treatment of foreign nationals, particularly those with dual Iranian citizenship.
“Having citizens with deep connections to other cultures and countries is an asset, not a criminal offense,” said Human Rights Watch.
“But Iran’s security apparatus has apparently made the despicable decision to use these individuals as bargaining chips to resolve diplomatic disputes.”