Wife of detained UK-Iranian urges London to 'pay debt'

London (AFP) – The wife of a British-Iranian man being held in Tehran on Wednesday urged the government in London to "pay their debt" and secure his release after his latest appeals were turned down.


Anoosheh Ashoori, a 67-year-old retired engineer from south London, was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his mother and jailed for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel.

His wife Sherry said she had been told by the British government that his detention was related to a British debt of £400 million ($550 million, 460 million euros) owed to Iran.

Tehran told Ashoori's family on Saturday that the Supreme Court appeal against his conviction had been rejected, as had his application for conditional release, which he was eligible for having served a third of his sentence.

"We thought there may be a small chance, so that was a bigger blow," Sherry Izadi said of the decision not to grant him conditional release.

"He's a good prisoner, he's not a murderer, he's not a rapist, he's just an innocent man in prison," she told AFP.

"They really shouldn't have had any grounds to reject his request... but it just comes down to the fact that the whole case is politically motivated."

The family has now exhausted every legal avenue to secure his release, she said, adding: "Our only salvation now really lies with the government.

"And that's not a good prospect for us really, considering how little they've done so far."

'Caught up' in politics

Dual nationals from various countries have been detained in Iran in what campaigners and the British government say is hostage-taking aimed at pressuring the West.

Sherry Izadi said the British debt was related to army tanks paid for by the shah of Iran in the 1970s.

When the shah was ousted in the 1979 Islamic revolution, Britain refused to deliver the tanks. London has since admitted it owes Tehran several hundred million pounds.

Sherry Izadi, wife of Anoosheh Ashoori, has urged London to settle its debts and free her husband
Sherry Izadi, wife of Anoosheh Ashoori, has urged London to settle its debts and free her husband DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS AFP

She called on the government to "pay their long standing military debt, which they now acknowledge."

A deal was nearly reached over the summer, she had been told, but "at the last minute the deal fell through".

"We are basically nobodies caught up in games between two major governments," she added.

"We have to bear the brunt of the blame games."

Sherry spoke to her husband, who is being held in Evin prison in Tehran, on Tuesday.

"It's been one sort of setback after another. So it's almost like you develop a coping mechanism of not trying to think beyond the next few weeks because otherwise you'd go mad," she said of her husband.

"If he allows himself to give up hope, it means he's resigned himself to spending six more years in Evin, so he's just taking it one day at a time."

Another dual British-Iranian national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, on Saturday lost an appeal against a second jail term in Iran after spending more than five years in detention.