February 20, 2021
A British-Iranian dual citizen being held prisoner in Iran has lost access to a phone, depriving him of his lifeline to sanity and the outside world, according to his wife.
Anoosheh Ashoori “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,” his wife Sherry told The Guardian newspaper.
Ashoori, 66, is serving a 10-year sentence for allegedly spying for Israel — charges he denies. The father of two insists he is being held hostage and has attempted suicide in jail.
He previously sent pleas to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do more to secure his release from Evin prison — infamous for its role in holding political prisoners and foreign nationals.
While detained, Ashoori has given first-hand accounts of a typical day in Evin, and also spoken out about the spread of coronavirus in the prison.
Iranian authorities are said to have strongly objected to a message he sent out in December that was picked up by Persian media and touched on the pandemic and his treatment.
He had recorded two other messages that discussed the impact of prison on dividing families, and the lavish lifestyles of Iranian officials’ children living abroad — though his wife did not distribute them to protect his safety. It is possible that authorities heard those recordings.
Rights groups and the UN have long criticized Tehran’s seemingly arbitrary detention of foreigners and dual nationals.
In a 2019 report, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, expressed deep concern about the continued “arbitrary arrest, detention, ill-treatment and denial of appropriate medical treatment of dual and foreign nationals.” He said they are often subject to sham trials and used to obtain “diplomatic leverage.”
Iran is currently detaining a number of dual nationals. British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ractliffe is nearing the end of her five-year sentence, but has previously been threatened with fresh charges. Her husband says Tehran is holding her hostage.
German-Iranian Nahid Taghavi has been held in Evin since October 2020. She has serious medical conditions, including diabetes and high blood pressure, putting her at high risk from COVID-19.
Amnesty International has called her detention “arbitrary,” saying: “She is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.”