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Iran: prison letter from British national Mehran Raoof highlights need for UK action

Unjustly jailed labour rights activist says authorities are using detained dual nationals as ‘a valuable commodity’ and trying to get ‘large sums of money’

Raoof’s MP Jeremy Corbyn calls for action after FAC report on ‘state hostage diplomacy’

Daughter of German-Iranian woman detained alongside Raoof calls for ‘coordinated’ response from German and UK governments

‘This powerful and distressing letter is yet another reminder to the UK government that it needs to redouble its efforts’ - Sacha Deshmukh

Amnesty International has called on the UK government to “redouble its efforts” to secure the release of a British-Iranian national - Mehran Raoof - after he sent a letter from Evin prison in Iran denouncing the Iranian legal system and especially its treatment of people - like him - with dual citizenship.

Raaof, 66, a British-Iranian labour rights activist, has been arbitrarily detained in Iran since his arrest by the country’s Revolutionary Guards on 16 October 2020.

In August 2021, Raoof - along with German-Iranian national Nahid Taghavi (see below) - was sentenced to ten years and eight months on national security-related charges after a grossly unfair trial. Amnesty considers him a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.

In his letter from Evin prison, which has been published (in Farsi) by the Human Rights Activist News Agency, Raoof says Iranian law enforcement is “subject to the interpretations and whims of those in power”, and that dual-national prisoners are used as “a valuable commodity” by the authorities in their dealings with other countries.

Raoof says people in Iran are being criminalised for their thoughts or peaceful activities, arbitrarily arrested and taken to “special detention centre[s]” run by the Ministry of Intelligence or Revolutionary Guards where they are held in “a solitary cell designed for ill-treatment” and interrogated blindfolded or “facing the wall”, or in special rooms with “smoked glass where the accused cannot see the interrogators”.

Of his own arrest, Raoof says that contrary to Iran’s own laws, he was denied access to a lawyer for eight months, and for several months his family and relatives were “completely unaware” of his fate and whereabouts”.

Raoof goes on to say that the Iranian government is “trying to get large sums of money for the exchange of dual nationals”. In the letter Raoof also expresses frustration at what he says is a decision by the Iranian authorities to exclude him and other dual nationals from an early-release scheme.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said: 

“This powerful and distressing letter is yet another reminder to the UK government that it needs to redouble its efforts to secure the release of Mehran, Morad Tahbaz and other UK nationals arbitrarily detained overseas.

“For years it’s been clear that the Iranian authorities have been arbitrarily detaining British nationals - along with people from the USA, Germany and elsewhere - and using them as diplomatic pawns.

“To know, as Mehran does, that dual nationals are being used as a ‘commodity’ by the Iranian authorities will be a shattering realisation and we need the FCDO to genuinely push for his and Morad’s release at every opportunity.”

Jeremy Corbyn, Mehran Raoof’s MP, said:

“Being a trade unionist should not be a crime, and Mehran should never have been detained let alone sentenced for ten-plus years for peacefully advocating for workers’ rights in Iran.

“Just last week, the Foreign Affairs Committee published its report ‘Stolen years: combatting state hostage diplomacy’ which refers to Mehran and Morad Tahbaz as two British nationals who’ve been left behind in Iran.

“Mehran is approaching the one-third point of his sentence and is now eligible for release - here is an important opportunity for the UK to take long overdue action on Mehran’s case and press for his immediate release.”

Mariam Claren, the daughter of Nahid Taghavi, the German national who was detained together with Mehran and charged, convicted and sentenced on the same case file, said:

“The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has said that Nahid’s detention is arbitrary. Nahid and Mehran should not be in prison and I want to see concerted and coordinated action from the German and UK governments to press for their release. My mother is in poor health and her detention is having a devastating impact on her and our family.”

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