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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori arriving in the UK on 16 March 2022 PA Images

Iran demanded €33,000 to release retired engineer alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, family says

Anoosheh Ashoori was arrested in 2017 and sentenced to jail for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel.

THE FAMILY OF a British-Iranian man freed this week after spending five years in a Tehran jail were forced to pay Iran £27,000 (€33,000) to secure his return home.

Anoosheh Ashoori, a retired engineer from southeast London, was arrested in 2017 and sentenced to jail for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel and two for “acquiring illegitimate wealth” in charges that he denies.

He flew home on Wednesday having been released along with compatriot Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after Britain reached a deal with Tehran over a historic military contract debt.

His release was only secured after the family were able to meet a last-minute demand to pay a fine, they said.

“On March 14th, Dad’s conditional release was signed and communicated to us,” the family wrote on fundraising site Crowdfunder.

“We had been waiting for 5 years for Dad to come home and were suddenly told that the only thing now stopping this… was an arbitrary £27,000 fine which we suddenly had to pay,” they added.

“We had less than 12 hours to raise the money, taking out loans using our credit cards, and opening new accounts,” Ashoori’s wife, Sherry Izadi, told the Guardian in comments published today.

“My only thought was: ‘How are we going to do this in time?’”

The Crowdfunder appeal had already raised more than £33,000 on Saturday, £6,000 above the target.

The families of both Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori believe they were being held as political prisoners until the historic debt was settled.

The final deal was reached “after highly complex and exhaustive negotiations”, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.

The fate of a third British-Iranian held in Tehran is unclear.

Truss announced on Wednesday that Morad Tahbaz, who is a US national, has been released from prison “on furlough” to his Tehran home.

Relatives said he had been taken back to Evin prison after only 48 hours at his family home in Tehran.

The UK Foreign Office said that he had gone to the prison to have an ankle tag fitted, but had yet to give an update on whether he had been returned.

The ministry said Iran would be in breech of its commitments if the 69-year-old conservationist was kept in jail.

His sister Taraneh Tahbaz told AFP that the family feared he was being “used as a pawn”.

“We are extremely disappointed that he was left behind in Iran, we’re devastated as you can imagine, we’re distraught.”

She accused the UK Foreign Office of misleading them over efforts to secure his release.

“We were trusting the Foreign Office… all this time, speaking to them during all these years that he’s been in prison, and they were assuring us that they were doing their utmost to help to bring him out.

“It has not been the case,” she said.

“We now must put all our trust in the American authorities, and only hope the British will do their part as well and help.”

© AFP 2022

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