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Baroness asks UK government to call for release of Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

PUBLISHED: 16:54 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:18 02 February 2017

Baroness Northover, left, Baron Campbell of Pittenweem, right, with Richard Ratcliffe and his mother Barbara Ratcliffe in the centre

Baroness Northover, left, Baron Campbell of Pittenweem, right, with Richard Ratcliffe and his mother Barbara Ratcliffe in the centre

Archant

Members of the House of Lords have discussed the “cruel and manipulative” treatment of Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran with her two-year-old daughter.

Another ally for Nazanin

Lindsay Northover – known officially as Baroness Northover – told the Ham&High she first read about the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in these pages.

As a local – she lives “just down the road” from Alexandra Palace – Baroness Northover felt particular concern for Hampstead mum Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her daughter, Gabriella.

She met with Richard Ratcliffe and his mother at the House of Lords today before raising a question in the hope of helping the family be re-united.

She said: “I contacted the family and asked if there was anything else I could do.

“One thing sticking is that the minister said the government was waiting for the legal process to go through – but it’s already done.”

She added: “I understand that if there were another appeal, it would take about two years. But speed is of the essence because there is a young child and a vulnerable mother involved.”

Mr Ratcliffe, she said, is worried about his daughter’s English – which she said is “disappearing”.

“He is a very intelligent and engaged man, but he is also very distressed,” she added.

Baroness Northover said relations with Iran are “very complex”, but stressed that it is “good” to have better relations with the country.

She added: “It’s vital that if we are going to increase trade with Iran that those visiting are safe.”

She said she intends to continue raising Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case until she is returned home.

The question of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s status – she has been held in the Islamic republic since April 2016 after being accused of trying to overthrow the government, and subsequently sentenced to five years in jail – was raised by Liberal Democrat Baroness Northover today.

She asked what action was being taken by the Government in her case, adding: “Surely the time has come for the UK to call for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release before she, her little daughter and her husband suffer further.”

She also said that, “unlike Mr [Donald] Trump”, Britain is seeking “improved relations with Iran”.

On January 22, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s appeal against her sentence was rejected by Iranian officials.

Nazanin with her daughter GabriellaNazanin with her daughter Gabriella

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, Conservative minister of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said the Government was “very disappointed” about the appeal’s outcome and will continue to raise “strong concerns” over her imprisonment.

She added: “The suffering of the family can barely be imagined.

“We should remember that this is a loving father who simply wants his family to be re-united,” stressing: “We’re working towards the positive resolution to this, my lords, because it is the right thing for us all to do.”

Baroness Anelay also said she is aware of reports of an “appalling attempt” to gain money from Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family in exchange for her release, but claimed she had no “personal details”.

She added: “The judiciary falls under the Supreme Leader [of Iran, Ali Khamenei], and its shortcomings are evident.

“Those standing trial on political or politically motivated charges are often denied proper access to a lawyer and this results in defendants often lacking a proper defence in trials. My lords: this is an appalling situation.”

Officials, she said, met Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family recently and reported to husband Richard Ratcliffe the results of a January meeting held in Tehran.

“It is a fact that those who are dual nationals do face significant problems if they are detained in Iran because we do not have consular access to them,” she added. “We can ask and we can continue to ask but we cannot insist.”

Crossbencher Baron Alton of Liverpool said the “cruel and manipulative” treatment of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family was being meted out by a country that was “responsible for over a thousand executions one recent year, including of women and teenagers”.

But Conservative Baron Lamont of Lerwick said that he had raised the issue with the Iranian government himself.

He added: “Is it not the case that this treatment of Nazanin not only is a tragedy for her but is also harming the prospects for investment and the future of the Iranian people as well?”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Baron Campbell of Pittenweem, meanwhile, said: “Would it not be unfortunate if the fact that this matter is not resolved should sully or undermine [the] emerging and improving relationship [with Iran]?

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