Prisoners

Family Spokesman: British-Iranian Mehran Raoof's Detention is an Outrage

April 8, 2022
Hannah Somerville
3 min read
Mehran Raoof, now aged 65, has been held in Iran since October 2020
Mehran Raoof, now aged 65, has been held in Iran since October 2020

The official spokesman for British-Iranian dual national Mehran Raoof has slammed the British government for inaction on the detained activist’s case.

Sattar Rahmani said on Thursday it was “wonderful and extremely important” that Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were freed last month in exchange for £400m owed by Britain to Iran.

But, he said, it was “a travesty and outrage” that three other British citizens, Mehran Raoof, Morad Tahbaz, and Shahram Shirkhani, had been “conspicuously” left behind.

 

Raoof's Family "Never Asked for Anonymity"

In the aftermath of Nazanin and Anoosheh’s return to the UK on March 16, British Foreign Minister Liz Truss was asked in parliament about Mehran Raoof, who by that time had been detained in Iran for close to 18 months.

The cabinet member responded: “I must respect the individual’s request of whether their case should be raised in public. That is why we mention publicly only those individuals who have asked to be named.”

In his statement this week, Rahmani said: “I can state unequivocally that neither of these statements is accurate.Mehran’s family and friends properly informed the Foreign Office that it should raise Mehran’s case with the Iranian authorities to secure his release. They did not state that his case should not be made public. And they named me as their representative.

“Since then, I as well as Amnesty International have been in contact with the Foreign Office, pressing them to do everything possible to secure Mehran’s release.”

He added: “I would also ask Foreign Minister Truss why she says Mehran did not want his case made public. Mehran was held in solitary confinement for months following his arrest and denied independent legal counsel. Did any British official visit Mehran to ascertain his wishes?”

 

Months of Inaction

Last month, Amnesty International told IranWire that it still was unaware of any tangible action having been taken by the UK government on Mehran’s behalf in Iran.

Raoof, a trade unionist now aged 65, was first arrested in a raid on his family home in October 2020. He was then held for months in solitary confinement on Ward 2A of Evin Prison.

In that time, Rahmani said, he was also subjected to threats of harm if he did not “cooperate”, and held in a room with the lights on 24 hours a day, which caused him mental distress.

Then last August, Raoof and an Austrian-Iranian national, Nahid Taghavi, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison on fabricated spying charges after a grossly unfair trial.

Raoof was denied the chance to meet with his lawyer before each of the two hearings. He is still barred from making phone calls abroad, effectively blocking him from consular assistance as well as contact with his family.

After the sentencing, and after months of refusing to publicly intervene in the case, the Foreign Office finally commented: “We continue to do all we can to support Mehran and his family, and continue to raise his case at the most senior levels.”

 

Civil Society Steps Into the Void

In the 18 months since Mehran Raoof’s arrest, more than 100 different trade unions, workers’ organizations and human rights groups around the world have called for his release.

In spring 2021, some 3,500 people backed an appeal for all political prisoners held by the Iranian regime to be released unconditionally, with Raoof’s name cited among them.

The call was endorsed by Anoosheh Ashoori’s wife Sherry Izadi, daughter Elika, and son Aryan, and Mariam Claren, the daughter of Nahid Taghavi.

It was also backed by pan-European prisoner support movement Burn the Cage/Free the Birds, Nobel Laureates Shirin Ebadi and Jody Williams, and Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Gloria Steinem, Daniel Ellsberg, Ariel Dorfman, and Raymond Lotta.

In light of all this, Rahmani concluded: “I ask the British government and the foreign ministry: why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to free a citizen you’re responsible for from such unconscionable, illegal and barbaric treatment, especially now that the financial dispute between Britain and Iran has been resolved?”

“I salute these and other such efforts and, on behalf of Mehran Raoof, again demand the British government and the Foreign Office take immediate steps to provide Mehran Raoof with full consular assistance, and demand the Islamic Republic of Iran release him immediately.”

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Family Spokesman: British-Iranian Mehran Raoof's Detention is an Outrage