LONDON: A British-Iranian dual national recently released from a lengthy detention in Iran has criticized British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for only getting in touch with him after his release.
Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, was held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for five years, allegedly for spying on behalf of the Israeli government.
He returned to the UK last week alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a fellow British-Iranian national.
Ashoori told Sky News that he felt let down by the British leader, but praised the “fantastic job” that civil servants had done behind the scenes.
In 2020, he had managed to record an audio message while behind bars pleading for Johnson’s help.
“I risked my safety but I managed to convey that message to him,” said Ashoori.
“Unfortunately he did not expend even five minutes to give a telephone call to my family.”
However, on Monday, Ashoori received an invitation to meet with the prime minister.
He told Sky News: “Now he’s eager to see us. How would you interpret that?
“I think that there’s a bit of opportunism involved in it.”
Asked if he would meet with the prime minister, Ashoori said: “I’m not sure.”
Though both London and Tehran deny it, it is thought that the release of Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe was contingent upon the payment of a historic debt owed to Iran worth around $530 million.
Ashoori said: “That was not a ransom, that was a debt that the British government owed and it should have been paid. And if it had been paid, none of this would have happened.”
He also revealed that his family had to pay a £27,000 ($35,000) fine for his release — and that they received no assistance from the Foreign Office on this, instead being forced to max out credit cards.
A crowdfunder established to help the family pay has now raised more than £38,000, leaving Ashoori “bowled over by the generosity, support, and absolute kindness of strangers.”
The remaining money will be used by the family to help campaign for those who remain in Evin prison to be released, including Morad Tahbaz, a British-US national who Ashoori knows personally.
Ashoori told Sky that he feels a responsibility to help Tahbaz — whose plight was also raised by Zaghari-Ratcliffe — having witnessed prison conditions that include bed bugs, the smell of open sewers, and dental care from a dentist known for “pulling 10 teeth in 10 minutes.”
A government spokesperson told Sky News: “From the prime minister down, this government has been committed to securing the release of Anoosheh Ashoori.
“It was always entirely in Iran’s gift to do this, but UK ministers and diplomats were tireless in working to secure his freedom and are delighted that he is now home.
“Our consular team were in close regular contact with Anoosheh’s family, with officials available to them at any time throughout his ordeal.”