Skip to main content
Amnesty International UK
Log in

UK: Southbank projection makes appeal to Rishi Sunak over British man jailed in Iran

Giant projection of trade unionist Mehran Raoof on Rambert building appeared alongside message ‘Rishi, say his name: Mehran Raoof’

Amnesty letter to PM calls for ‘coherent strategy’ on UK nationals arbitrarily detained abroad

‘On this, International Workers’ Day, we’d like to hear Rishi Sunak for the first time speaking about Mehran’s case in public’ - Sacha Deshmukh

Campaigners from Amnesty International UK have projected an appeal to Rishi Sunak over the case of a British man jailed in Iran onto a building in London’s iconic Southbank complex.

The night-time projection onto the Southbank’s Rambert dance school building at 8:30pm last night showed the face of Mehran Raoof, a 67-year-old British-Iranian trade union activist who’s been arbitrarily detained in Iran since his arrest by the country’s Revolutionary Guards in October 2020.

The projection saw the message “Rishi, say his name: Mehran Raoof” made visible across a large area of central London. Other messages included ”Advocating for workers’ rights isn’t a crime”, “Free UK nationals illegally detained abroad”, “Free Mehran” and “Free Alaa” (see below). 

In August 2021, Raoof was sentenced to ten years and eight months in jail in Iran on national security-related charges following a grossly unfair trial. After his arrest, he was held in solitary confinement for months and interrogators subjected him to coercive questioning without the presence of lawyers. His interrogators threatened to harm him if he didn't cooperate and he was held in a room where the lights were kept on 24 hours a day. Last year, Raoof smuggled a letter out of Evin prison detailing some of the abuse he’d endured. He also said dual nationals like him were being deliberately targeted by the Iranian authorities. Amnesty considers Raoof a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally. 

Amnesty - along with Raoof’s family and supporters - is concerned that the UK has failed to make concerted representations on his behalf, part of what campaigners believe is a longstanding pattern of UK nationals arbitrarily detained overseas receiving inconsistent levels of support from the Government.

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

“We’re asking Rishi Sunak to personally call on the Iranian authorities to release Mehran Raoof and break this pattern where the Government seems content to let arbitrarily-detained British national languish in overseas jails.

“Mehran is an ordinary trade unionist who should never have been jailed for a single day, never mind the best part of the last four years.

“On this, International Workers’ Day, we’d like to hear Rishi Sunak for the first time speaking about Mehran’s case in public.

“Talk to any family member of someone unfortunate enough to be arbitrarily detained abroad, and invariably they’ll tell you of their immense struggle in getting UK officials to engage with their loved one’s plight. This has got to change.

“We want to see the Government laying out a coherent strategy for how they’ll deal with cases like Mehran Raoof and Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s.”

Letter to Prime Minister

Sacha Deshmukh has written to the Prime Minister this week calling on him to develop “a coherent strategy” for how the Government responds to cases like Raoof’s. Deshmukh’s letter says that the UK has a “highly inconsistent” record in relation to cases where UK nationals are arbitrarily detained abroad, with the Amnesty head citing recent ordeals faced by Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz. The families of these former detainees were often sharply critical of ministers and officials for “keeping them in the dark” about what - if anything - was being done on behalf of their unfairly-imprisoned loved ones. 

Amnesty believes the new strategy should include, as a minimum, the Government calling for an arbitrarily-detained person’s immediate release (including publicly where requested by the family), pressing for access to a lawyer, a fair trial and medical care where relevant, demanding consular access, insisting that UK officials be able to attend trials, and regularly meeting with family members to outline the Government’s overall approach in the case.

Since last week, more than 5,000 people have supported a new Amnesty Path To Freedom campaign on behalf of Raoof and Alaa Abdel Fattah, 42, a British national arbitrarily detained in Egypt since September 2019. Abdel Fattah - from a family of prominent human rights activists - has been the subject of a high-profile campaign but, like Raoof, remains in jail. In common with other families in a similar predicament, Abdel Fattah’s family say they’ve received extremely inconsistent levels of support from the UK government. 

View latest press releases