Anoosheh Ashoori has revealed that Boris Johnson did not respond to any appeals from his family during his incarceration, but since his release the Prime Minister has asked to meet with him.
The 67-year-old British-Iranian spent five years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.
He was returned to the UK last week along with his British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Speaking exclusively on Sky News program’s Beth Rigby interviews, Mr Ashoori said he felt let down by Britain’s leader but praised the “fantastic job” officials had done behind the scenes.
Mr Johnson did not respond to the family’s requests for support, nor did he respond to a direct request from Mr Ashoori.
The jailed Brit managed to record an audio message in prison asking for Mr Johnson’s help. It was published by Sky News in 2020.
Listen Voice Messages from Anoosheh Ashoori: “We are just a breath away from death in this circle of hell”
The retired engineer said: “I risked my safety but I managed to get that message across to him.
“Unfortunately, it didn’t even take him five minutes to call my family.”
However, on Monday, Mr Ashoori received an invitation to meet the prime minister.
He told Sky News: “Now he’s excited to see us. How would you interpret that?
“I think there’s a bit of opportunism there.”
Asked if he would meet with the prime minister, Mr Ashoori said: “I’m not sure.”
Mr Ashoori praised the officials working behind the scenes, naming Stephanie Al-Qaq, the director of the Middle East and North Africa department at the Foreign Office, and Simon Shercliff, the ambassador to Iran.
He said: “They did a fantastic job. It’s the leadership that we question.”
Mr Ashoori and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe were released after the UK repaid a 40-year-old £400million debt to Iran.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been criticized for commenting earlier this week that the government should have gotten her out sooner.
But Mr Ashoori says he agrees with Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe “100 per cent”.
“It wasn’t a ransom, it was a debt owed by the British government and it should have been paid. And if it had been paid for, none of that would have happened,” he says.
The Ashoori family had around 48 hours’ notice that their loved one would be returning – and that they would have to pay a £27,000 fine for his release.
The Foreign Office did not offer the family any assistance in this matter. They were forced to max out their credit cards to get the money in time.
A crowdfunder was founded by his daughter Elika to find a way to pay off her debts.
More than £38,000 was raised, leaving Mr Ashoori “overwhelmed by the generosity, support and absolute kindness of strangers”.
Some of the extra money will be used by the family to support campaigns for the release of those remaining in Evin prison, including Morad Tahbaz, a British-American national whom Mr Ashoori knows personally.
Mr Ashoori feels compelled to do so after witnessing prison conditions – bed bugs, the smell of open sewers and dental care from a dentist known for “pulling ten teeth in ten minutes”.
During his detention he made several attempts to take his own life.
He cut his wrists and once tried to starve himself to death – losing 17 kg in 17 days.
“I stopped eating. I didn’t even drink water for four days… I think if you’re gone, you don’t exist and then you don’t feel any pain. That was my reasoning.”
A government spokesman said: “From the prime minister down, this government has pledged to ensure the release of Anoosheh Ashoori.
“It has always been Iran’s gift to do so, but British ministers and diplomats have worked tirelessly to secure his freedom and are pleased he is now home.”
“Our consular team have been in close regular contact with Anoosheh’s family, with officials available at all times during his ordeal.”
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