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Iranian detainee blames UK government ‘procrastination’ for long ordeal

Iranian detainee blames UK government ‘procrastination’ for long ordeal
`Why didn’t you do it earlier?»: Anousheh Ashouri was held in Iran for five years before release this month

A British businessman freed from detention in L'Iran alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said he blames the UK government for his five-year ordeal.

Joint British-Iranian national Anousheh Ashouri, 67, accused the government of “procrastination” over a historic £400m debt to Tehran which was finally paid on 16 March as part of a deal which saw him and Nazanin freed to return to the UK.

Mr Ashouri, from south London, had been held since 2017 on charges, which he denied, of spying for Israeli secret service Mossad and “acquiring illegitimate wealth”.

His release came on the day when the UK finally settled a debt dating back to the 1970s for Chieftain tanks ordered and paid for by the Shah of Iran but never delivered, after he was deposed in the Islamic revolution in 1979.

The UK had long admitted that the debt was owed, and paid money into court as long ago as 2002, but ministers said they faced obstacles in handing the cash over because of long-standing international sanctions against Iran.

Asked by BBC Radio 4’s Aujourd'hui programme who he blamed for his long ordeal, Mr Ashouri said: “Most of all my captors, but then again, the British government at the leadership level, for the procrastination that happened.

“They could have done this much earlier. Nazanin could see her beautiful daughter much earlier. I could be back with my family.

“This was a debt that had to be paid. Why didn’t you do it earlier?"