Letter to UK ambassador to Iran calls for jailed Britons’ cases to be raised this week

Letter to Nicholas Hopton comes ahead of major Europe-Iran business meeting in Zurich.

Mr Hopton urged to call for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi’s release.

Amnesty International and REDRESS have written to the UK’s Ambassador to Iran, Nicholas Hopton, urging him to press for the release of two Britons jailed in Iran.

The letter, ahead of a major Europe-Iran business conference in Zurich tomorrow (3 October), calls on Mr Hopton to use meetings with Iranian officials at the event to seek the release of the imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the businessman Kamal Foroughi (see case information below).

The Zurich gathering, the Europe-Iran Forum, bills itself as an “Unparalleled Project in ‘Business Diplomacy’”, and Amnesty and REDRESS’ letter notes that while diplomatic and business ties between EU countries (including the UK) and Iran have recently improved, there has been no movement on the matter of unfairly jailed EU-Iranian dual-nationals.

The letter “strongly urges” Mr Hopton to use the Zurich event to call for the “immediate release” of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Foroughi, and, pending their release, “secure consular access to them”. The letter says:

“It has now been over one year since diplomatic relations with Iran have been fully restored, and six-and-a-half years since Mr Foroughi was first detained, yet Iran continues to deny UK officials access to UK nationals detained in Iran.”

Adopting a hardline policy of refusing to recognise dual-nationality, the Iranian authorities have repeatedly refused to allow UK officials access to either Zaghari-Ratcliffe or Foroughi.Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said:

“While diplomatic and business ties between the UK and Iran are steadily being restored, Nazanin and Kamal are still languishing in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. The UK could and should be doing more to secure the release of Nazanin and Kamal, and we strongly urge Nicholas Hopton to use his time at Zurich to raise their cases with Iranian officials.”

Carla Ferstman, REDRESS Director, said:

“Business as usual without guarantees for basic human rights won’t help bring Nazanin and Kamal home. Their continued arbitrary detention taints any efforts to improve business relations with Iran.”

The two cases

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016, prior to boarding a plane back to Britain following a family visit to Iran. After being detained for over five months, initially in solitary confinement, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was subjected to an unfair trial and sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of “membership of an illegal group”. The charges appear to relate to her employment at Thompson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation, as well as her past work as an administrative assistant on a BBC Media Action project to train young journalists. Amnesty believes Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a prisoner of conscience and is calling on the Iranian authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally.

Meanwhile Kamal Foroughi, also a UK-Iranian national, is an oil and gas company consultant who has already spent over six years in jail in Iran. Mr Foroughi was sentenced to seven years after being convicted of “espionage” following an unfair trial. Under Iran’s own laws, Foroughi has been eligible for release for the past three-and-a-half years, though he continues to be held without an official explanation.

In both cases, there are very serious health concerns, with the families of both prisoners repeatedly expressing fears that their relatives are being denied urgently-needed specialised medical treatment. Meanwhile, relatives have been allowed very little contact with their loved ones.

The UK Government’s role

Prime Minister Theresa May (and her predecessor David Cameron) have reportedly raised the two cases with the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, while UK ministers are also said to have highlighted them with their Iranian counterparts. While the UK Government has formally called for Foroughi’s release on humanitarian grounds, it has yet to publicly call for the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Media contacts:

Amnesty International UK: Neil Durkin: 020 7033 1547, 07721 398984 (out of hours), [email protected]

REDRESS: Eva Sanchis, 020 7793 1777, 07857 110076 (out of hours), [email protected]