LONDON: The head of Amnesty International UK has welcomed the release of two British-Iranian dual nationals, who he said had been used by Tehran as “political pawns.”
In response to reports that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori had been released from detention in Iran, Sacha Deshmukh said: “This is fantastic news, but it hasn’t come a moment too soon.”
He added: “Nazanin and Anoosheh should never have been detained in the first place — they were both jailed on trumped-up national security charges, a familiar tactic in Iran.”
Amnesty has long condemned Iran for the detention of dual nationals — a pattern of behavior that some, including Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, have said amounts to hostage-taking for their use as bargaining chips.
Deshmukh said: “Nazanin and Anoosheh have unquestionably been used as political pawns by the Iranian authorities — and the Iranian authorities have acted with calculated cruelty, seeking to wring the maximum diplomatic value out of their captivity.”
They were reportedly only freed after Iran had received payment for a historical debt worth hundreds of millions of dollars, related to a pre-revolution arms deal between the shah and Britain.
Deshmukh said the British government “needs to follow up on Nazanin and Anoosheh’s release by immediately renewing its calls for the release of the UK nationals Morad Tahbaz and Mehran Raoof, both of whom are still going through an ordeal all too similar to Nazanin and Anoosheh’s.
“It’s been clear for years that the Iranian authorities are targeting foreign nationals with spurious national security-related charges to exert diplomatic pressure, and it’s more important than ever that Britain works multilaterally to combat this insidious practice.”
Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe spent roughly five and six years respectively behind bars in Iran.