LONDON: One of the British-Iranian detainees released by Tehran last week said he was “angry” that the UK government did not act sooner, and accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “opportunism”.

Retired engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, 68, was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother in Tehran and jailed for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel.

He and charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained for six years, arrived home last week after London settled a $520-million debt dating back to the time of the Shah of Iran. Ashoori told Sky News in an interview broadcast on Thursday night that Johnson, who was foreign secretary when he was detained, ignored his wife’s pleas to meet about his case.

“She made many attempts and all of them were unsuccessful,” he said, but added that Johnson had now sent them a letter and was “eager to see us”. “I think that it’s a bit of opportunism,” he said.

Ashoori, from south London, has always denied the charges against him, and revealed that he had sent a voice message to the prime minister while he was detained.

“I was blaming those who had captured us, I was blaming the British government, why don’t you do anything about it?” he told the broadcaster.

“I was really angry and that’s why I decided to send that voice message hoping that it would make a change.” Ashoori said he agreed with Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s comments during a press conference this week in which she said that she should have been released six years ago. “She should have been here years ago if that debt was paid.” In a separate interview with The Guardian newspaper, he said the foreign ministry advised the family for two years not to comment publicly on his detention.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2022

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