“Which comes first?” asked the prisoner
“Ah, I see yes, a good question. I will recommend they keep you here for ten years and then hang you!”
“Please don’t make it the other way round.”
About a year before his arrest Roger Cooper and I shared a small adventure. We were both at Tehran airport, making our way to the departure lounge for a flight to Dubai. Suddenly armed police appeared and secured all the doors. It seems that a group of transit passengers who had been held up for 48 hours were staging a sit-in. Their protest meant that, although we had checked in for our flight, our route to the departure lounge was barred by locked glass doors. Roger was fluent in Farsi and explained our predicament to the guards, to no avail. I then noticed that it would be relatively easy for us to disengage the lock on the glass doors and so we hatched a plan to make a screen out of some luggage to give us cover and when the lock was free we took our chance, when the guards weren’t looking. We got away with it and caught our flight, feeling very pleased with ourselves. Roger was based in Dubai and we had dinner at his club before I got my connecting flight to London. Roger worked at that time for an oil company called McDermott. He told me about his adventures working for them in the interior of Iran and his catch phrase was “The things we do for McDermott”.
His arrest came whilst he was on an assigment for McDermott. The charges against him were trumped up, his trial a farce. His sentence of death was for an affair he was supposed to have had with an Iranian woman many years before, the sentence of ten years was for spying. He was used by the Iranian regime as a political pawn and was eventually “traded” for an Iranian prisoner held in England. But not before he had spent 5 years in Evian prison, one of the most brutal, hellish places on earth.
I was reminded of this by a story told by Jimmy Wales at his ‘Free Thinking’ talk. He said that an Al Jazeera journalist called Dorothy Parvez had gone missing in Syria and was detained by the authorities in Iran on charges of spying. She was questioned for two weeks and her assertion that she was a journalist was dismissed by her interrogators. And then, one morning, when she was almost at the end of her endurance and ready to confess to anything, her interrogator said “I think we may believe you” When she asked why, now, after all this time, he replied “We looked you up on Wikipedia”.
There are many similarly ludicrous moments in Roger Cooper’s story, as related by him in his book, Death Plus Ten Years, but none, regrettably, which led to his early release.