UN body urges Iran to immediately release elderly British-Iranian grandfather to his family

In a strong decision [1], the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has called on the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately release a 77-year-old British-Iranian grandfather who has been held in prison in Iran for more than six years, and allow him to return to his family in London.

Kamal Foroughi has been detained away from his wife, daughter, son and two granddaughters who live in London. He has not had any visitors for over 2,000 days.

Mr Foroughi had been working in Tehran for Petronas, the national oil and gas corporation of Malaysia, when he was arrested in his flat on 5 May 2011 and taken to Evin prison by plainclothes men who never explained to him the reasons for his arrest. He was held in solitary confinement for 18 months pre-trial.

In 2013, in a case described as a “mockery of justice” by six UN Special Rapporteurs,(2) Mr Foroughi was found guilty of alleged “espionage,” which he has always strenuously denied and no evidence has ever been provided in justification, and “possessing alcohol,” which he admitted, in an unfair trial where he had to appear before court without a lawyer for the most part of his trial. Post-appeal, his sentence was seven years for “espionage” and one year for “possessing alcohol”, although it was not clear whether these were to run concurrently or consecutively. It was clarified in 2016 that the total sentence is seven years.

Under Article 58 of the Islamic Penal Code, Mr Foroughi has been eligible for early release every day since January 2014 (for the past 1,275 days), but remains in prison despite several instances where the Iranian authorities indicated verbally that his release was imminent.

His family are extremely concerned about his ailing health, which has been complicated as a result of his age and the lack of adequate medical care in detention. He may be suffering from prostate cancer and is at risk of blindness due to untreated cataracts.

Last week, the European Union asked for Mr Foroughi’s release on humanitarian grounds and underlined the need for Mr Foroughi to be given adequate medical care in view of his declining health condition.(3)

In its ruling, the WGAD found that Iran had breached the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) (4) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)(5), which Iran ratified in 1975.

The WGAD called on Iran to immediately release Mr Foroughi, given the risk of irreparable harm to his health and to his physical and mental integrity. It also referred his case to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for further investigation.

According to the UN body of experts:

“The Working Group considers that there is no legitimate reason to continue to detain an elderly and unwell man who has already served nearly six years of a sentence imposed contrary to his human rights, and to deprive him of the opportunity to live the remainder of his life with his family. The Working Group calls upon the Government to immediately release Mr. Foroughi and to ensure that he receives the necessary medical attention after his release.”

The UN body of experts also found that Mr Foroughi’s arbitrary detention was related to his dual nationality:

“Mr. Foroughi was targeted for other reasons, including on the basis of his ‘national and social origin’ as dual national, similarly to the recent pattern of detaining dual nationals on national security charges. Moreover, despite knowing that Mr. Foroughi is a dual national who has a family in the United Kingdom, the Iranian authorities have insisted that he speak only in Farsi when communicating with his family.”

“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is very clear: Iran must allow Mr Foroughi to be reunited with his family. There is no reason to prolong the suffering of an elderly man who should not be in prison in the first place,” said Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS.

“The decision recognises that Mr Foroughi was targeted because of his dual nationality. The UK government must demand his release, insist on consular access to him and other British nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran, and work closely with other European Union States whose nationals are similarly held in Iran,” [6] added Ferstman.


[1] UN WGAD Opinion No. 7/2017 concerning Kamal Foroughi (Islamic Republic of Iran), UN Doc. A/HRC/WGAD/2017/7.

[2] United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Press Release, Iran: UN rights expert calls for the immediate release of dual nationals, 7 October 2016. Available here.

[3] Answer to Parliamentary Question E-003312/2017 by Vice-President Mogherini on behalf of the Commission, 28 June 2017. Available here.

[4] The WGAD found violations of Article 9 (freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention), Article 10 (right to fair trial and clear and prompt charges) and Article 11 (right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, right to a proper defence, right to a public trial) of the UDHR.

[5] The WGAD found violations of Article 9 (right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention), Article 10 (right to be treated with humanity and with respect of inherent dignity) and Article 14 (The right to equality before the law; the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to have a fair and public hearing by an impartial tribunal) of the ICCPR

[6] Please see Joint NGO Letter to the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Iran, 12 June 2017. Available here:

For media queries, please contact Eva Sanchis, REDRESS Head of Communications, on +44 20 7793 1777 or [email protected].