In a message recorded in prison and delivered to the UK Prime Minister by his wife, a British-Iranian businessman jailed in Iran since August 2017 has pleaded with Boris Johnson to get him and his fellow British citizens out of prison.
"I am appealing to you to take action and get me and my fellow British citizens out of Evin prison, where the threat of COVID-19 is as strong as ever," Anoush Ashoori urged Johnson in the recording shared with AFP.
"My fear is that we have been forgotten by the British government," he said in his message.
Mr. Ashoori was detained by security forces when he went to Iran to visit his elderly mother. In August 2019 he was put on trial on charges of "spying for Israel's Mossad" and "acquiring illegitimate wealth" and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He is being held at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Iranian authorities have refused furlough to Mr. Ashoori and several other dual-citizens including U.S. citizens Morad Tahbaz, Siamak Namazi, French National Fariba Adelkhah and British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert who are serving jail terms on similar charges. Tens of thousands of other prisoners, however, were released from prison in March when the spread of coronavirus in prisons became a serious concern.
Mr. Ashoori's family told AFP that they are increasingly impatient with the lack of progress made by the British government in bringing him back home.
The Foreign Office has recorded around a dozen incidents of people with British passports being arrested in Iran since 2015, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is currently on furlough but not allowed to leave her parents house in Tehran. In May last year the UK Foreign Office advised dual British-Iranian nationals not to visit Iran.
Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt in December 2018 accused Tehran of using foreign passport holders as "pawns of diplomatic leverage" -- a claim Iran strongly denies.