Breaking News

Briton held in Iran ‘completely shut off’ after losing phone access

Anoosheh Ashoori, one of the British-Iranian dual nationals held in Evin prison in Tehran, has lost access to a phone, depriving him, according to his wife, of his lifeline to sanity and the outside world.

His wife, Sherry, told the Guardian: “He is completely shut off, and the daily phone conversations were his route to sanity and what was going on in the world, including how the campaign was going for his release. He is completely dependent on those calls.” He has previously made suicide attempts in jail.

The British ambassador to Tehran, Rob Macaire, has made representations to the Iranian foreign ministry but there has been no response.

Anoosheh, 66, a retired engineer and father of two, is serving 10 years in jail for allegedly spying for Israel, charges he has denied. He normally manages to speak to his wife based in London for up to 20 minutes a day over two or three calls, depending on how much phone time he can buy from other prisoners.

He has sent some recorded messages for broadcast to the outside world, mainly pleading for Boris Johnson to do more to secure his release, and insisting he is being held as a state hostage. He has given first-hand accounts of a typical day in Evin, and warned about the spread of coronavirus in the prison early last year.

It is understood the Iranian authorities strongly objected to a message in Farsi just before Christmas that got attention in the Persian media on the spread of Covid in prison, and his own treatment. He also sent out two other Farsi messages touching on the impact of prison on the breakup of families, in contrast to the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by children of Iranian officials abroad. They were not distributed by his wife to protect his safety. It is possible Iranian officials listened to the messages.

He appears to have lost access to a phone more than a fortnight ago.

Another British-Iranian dual national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been under house arrest at her parent’s home in Tehran and is wearing a tag, is waiting to hear if she will be allowed to return to London on 7 March, when her five-year sentence expires, or will instead face a second set of charges.

Le Figaro reported this week that a French-Iranian dual national and a German had been seized by Iran early this month. They may have been seized as leverage in anticipation of the sentencing of an Iranian diplomat, Assadolah Assadi, in Belgium on 4 February.

At the beginning of the week 58 countries led by Canada signed a declaration deploring the detention of foreign nationals for political purposes. The declaration did little to define hostage diplomacy, and countries such as Iran are adept at producing conspiratorial links between the accused.

In the last few weeks the plight of detained dual nationals has become a larger feature of western statements on the possibility of the US returning to the Iran nuclear deal, but their fate is not likely to become a determining factor in the success of those talks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *