LONDON — Rights groups Amnesty International has called for the unconditional release of a British-Iranian man who they said was being held in solitary confinement in Iran, as new details emerged about his case.
The London-based NGO said labor rights activist Mehran Raoof was being “arbitrarily detained” in Tehran’s Evin prison, where fellow dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was held for several years.
“He is being held in prolonged solitary confinement, in violation of the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment,” it said, noting that agents from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had arrested him in October, 2020.
“He is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
???? Take action with @AmnestyUK to call for the Iranian authorities to immediately release Mehran Raoof, a British-Iranian national & labour rights activist arbitrarily detained in solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin prison. https://t.co/HzZB1qiQpJ pic.twitter.com/uB5lPTXPam
— Amnesty Iran (@AmnestyIran) March 18, 2021
The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported this weekend that Raoof, a former teacher from north London, was helping to translate English-language news articles into Persian around the time of his arrest.
Satar Rahmani, a London-based colleague, told the paper he was detained along with 15 other workers, noting that trade unions are banned in Iran.
“They were using a coffee shop as a place to talk about workers’ rights,” the Telegraph quoted Rahmani as saying.
“But without their knowing, there was a spy, a young girl, in the coffee shop who secretly recorded their discussions, and that led to the arrests.”
The paper said Raoof was only known to have made contact with the outside world once since then, in a phone call with a distant relative in Iran, three months ago.
There are at least four UK-Iranian dual nationals currently being detained or facing charges in Iran.
The UK government has spent several years trying to secure the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in a case that has sharpened diplomatic tensions between the Islamic Republic and Britain.
She was detained while on holiday in 2016 and convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime in Tehran — accusations she strenuously denied.
The 42-year-old was working at the time as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media organization’s philanthropic wing.
She has been under house arrest in recent months and had her ankle tag removed, giving her more freedom of movement and allowing her to visit relatives in Tehran.
Tehran earlier this month called on Britain to “avoid politicizing” her case, after London said her latest appearance in court on new charges was “unacceptable” and “arbitrary.”
The hearing last Sunday, in which the mother-of-one reportedly on Sunday denied all charges, dashed hopes of family and supporters for her prompt return home.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe has told AFP in London that Nazanin was being used as a “political bargaining chip.”
He was referring to a dispute between Tehran and London concerning a British debt dating back more than 40 years for military tanks paid for by the deposed shah.
When the shah was ousted in 1979, Britain refused to deliver the tanks to Iran, and London has admitted it owed the Islamic Republic several hundred million pounds.