After spending almost 2,000 days in jail, Kamal Foroughi was promised his release last month. But he’s still locked up for a crime his family say he didn’t commit. August 27 marked his time in jail as the longest prison term a European citizen has undertaken in Iran. His son Kamran, who is urging the authorities to keep their pledge, tells Change.org’s Nadia Gilani how this latest twist in his campaign won’t make him back down, and how every signature adds vital pressure for his father’s release.
On September 3, Kamal Foroughi will turn 77 years old. It will be the sixth consecutive birthday spent in Iran’s notorious Evin prison away from his family in the UK. The prison, covering 43 hectares (106 acres) in the north of Tehran, has thousands of inmates, including many of Iran's political prisoners. Human rights activists have documented systematic abuses there, the BBC has reported.
His son Kamran has asked signers of his 216,000 strong petition to send a birthday card for Kamal to the Iranian embassy in their country - and demonstrate the determination of the campaign to free him.
Kamran said: “There isn’t a magic solution to help us keep going, but the support from our petition has helped. We asked our supporters to write to their MPs and they did, they’ve posted comments, and written to us. All of that has been very thoughtful and made a huge difference”.
Kamal was sentenced in 2013 to a total of seven years imprisonment on spying charges, though it remains unclear what evidence Iran convicted him on.
Iran’s intelligence often views dual-nationals with suspicion and has arrested a number of them in recent years, including the Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian who was convicted of espionage in a closed-door trial in 2015 and released earlier this year.
Kamran says his family was filled with “false hope” when their lawyers were told Iran’s Judiciary and Prosecutors’ Office agreed and signed for Kamal’s release.
He said: “For me the longer this goes on, the less likely something is to happen. I fear the worst, that once again days will turn into weeks and into years.
“It’s very hard for us to read what’s going on. You don’t really know what you’re dealing with. It’s like a black box - you’re in the dark”.
Mr Foroughi - who emigrated to Britain with his wife 30 years ago - has been denied visitors or access to appropriate medical care. He was with his wife visiting Iran when he was arrested.
Kamran said: “Aside from my dad, this is hardest on my step mum. She’s in a horrible position because she’s been separated from the man she loves. She decided to return to the UK thinking it would help. I also haven’t gone out there because there’s nothing to say they wouldn’t detain me too. We’ve heard of cases where that has happened”.
Kamran who lives in Hertsmere with his wife and two daughters is only allowed the briefest of phone calls with his father - once a week - which last about three minutes. They must also speak in Farsi so prison guards can listen in.
“They insist the calls are in Farsi and I’m not allowed to ask him about the conditions he’s living in. He’s never complained of them, but it’s not clear it they’re OK or not. His mood oscillates between some weeks sounding hopeful and then despondent," says Kamran.
Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly raised Kamal’s case in a phone call with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani earlier this month, but Kamran isn’t sure how much this will help.
He said: “The fact that the UK, France, Germany and Italy are calling for his release is very powerful, but my impression is that the Iranian government can’t officially do anything because it's a matter for the judiciary and Supreme Leader".
“The system in Iran is hard to get your head around. My dad has been promised freedom, and it’s been taken away again. But you have to keep hope alive because they could release him any day. That’s what we as a family are holding on to”.
To sign and share Kamran's petition go to change.org/freekamalforoughi