Anoosheh Ashoori’s family paid £27,000 to Iran to secure his release 

Aryan Ashoori, Sherry Izadi and Elika Ashoori Pic: PA

The family of the Lewisham man released last week after five years of captivity in Iran were forced to pay an outstanding fine of £27,000 to Iran to secure his release at the last minute.

The money was handed over in cash by a family member to the prison authorities in Evin, Tehran, where Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, had been detained for five years. It was demanded despite the British Government agreeing to pay £400m it owed to the Tehran government. The family raced to make the fine in the 12 hours they were given, using various credit cards, taking out loans and opening new accounts, reaching the target just before the deadline. 

But the public have now showed their support by helping to repay the family after Elika Ashoori, Anoosheh Ashoori’s daughter, set up a crowdfunding page to raise the money. In a show of public support, the total amount raised was £38,500, exceeding the £27,000 goal.

The excess funds will be split between the Ashoori family, to help them get back on their feet and supporting organisations that campaign on behalf of other detainees, such as Amnesty International, who were instrumental in Ashoori’s campaign

Elika Ashoori said on the crowdfunding page: “His freedom had been dangled in front of us, and there was a real risk of it being taken away again.

“We had been waiting for five years for Dad to come home and were suddenly told that the only thing now stopping this – apart from the previously unpaid debt of £400 million that the UK Government owed – was an arbitrary £27,000 fine which we suddenly had to pay.”

Ashoori has not spoken publicly since his return but is now back at his Lewisham home with his wife, Sherry. Yesterday, Elika Ashoori tweeted a picture of her parents watching a film on television together:

Anoosheh Ashoori and Sherry Izadi at home, watching Star Trek after Ashoori’s release. Credit: @lilika49

Anoosheh Ashoori was grabbed off the street when he was visiting his mother in Tehran in 2017. He was charged with spying on the Iranian government for the Israeli Mossad regime which he has vehemently denied. 

Ashoori, a retired engineer had been living with his wife Sherry Izadi, daughter Elika and son Aryan in Lewisham for over ten years.

He attended Thames Polytechnic [now the University of Greenwich], and his work as an engineer was instrumental in the reconstruction of Bam in Iraq, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 2003.

His family welcomed him home last week on March 15, in an emotional reunion at RAF Brize Norton. Ashoori returned to Britain alongside Iranian-British Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had been in jail for over six years.

Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe return home. Video credit: Elika Ashoori

Their release depended on the repayment of a £400 million debt the UK owed to Iran, dating back to the 1970s. Zaghari-Ratcliffe recently gave a press conference criticising the Foreign Office’s slowness.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe new conference. Credit: @BBCNews

Ashoori’s conditional release was “signed and communicated” on March 14, the same evening Iran requested the “illegitimate fine”, which had to be paid before his release.

Sherry Izadi, his wife, told The Guardian: “At first, the government officials in Tehran demanded my nephew meet them outside the prison with a suitcase full of cash, but he demanded he went inside the prison and be given a receipt. They kept dragging it out, demanding to count the money and check whether it was counterfeit.”

Izadi said she could not tell her husband that negotiations were underway in Tehran to finalise his release as the Foreign Office had sworn her to secrecy. “I could not tell him what I knew since I was told lives were at risk,” she said.

Whilst Ashoori had been notified of his conditional release, he was unsure if it would happen as similar scenarios had occurred in the past.

ELL interviewed Izadi in October last year, however, the family have struggled to be heard by the mainstream British press. Elika Ashoori told BBC Radio 4 in an interview it was because his story was “not relatable“.  

She said: “It has been a very big struggle trying to get my dad’s name out there; we were slightly more successful in the last year of our campaign because of the efforts of Amnesty and other organisations that finally joined us.”

A spokesperson for the family told ELL that the family are taking the week off and will be taking time to rest in the days ahead. 

Anoosheh Ashoori and Sherry Izadi. Pic: Sherry Izadi

Leave a Reply