Family and MPs call for 'consequences' over Iran's treatment of Nazanin
- Credit: Archant
With his wife facing another two years detained in Iran, Richard Ratcliffe has criticised the UK government's "acceptance" of Nazanin being used as a diplomatic pawn.
Speaking after Nazanin's case was discussed in parliament, Richard told this newspaper it is frustrating to see the government's lack of action.
He said: "It felt like they were still saying: 'We will carry on doing what we are doing.'
"Clearly Tulip and others were saying: 'What you are doing isn't working.'
"I think Jeremy Hunt was spot on - there need to be consequences. You can't just keep using tough words."
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Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq asked an urgent question in the House of Commons a day after Nazanin was told she would face a further year in prison in Iran and a year's travel ban.
This comes after she was convicted of further charges of spreading anti-regime propaganda by authorities in Tehran.
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It is not yet clear whether or when Nazanin will be forced to return to Evin Prison.
Both Richard and Tulip said it was no coincidence that Nazanin was again facing retribution after delays in the repayment of £400m the UK government has owed Iran since the late 1970s.
Tulip said the UK government's efforts to free Nazanin had been a "dismal failure".
She said in parliament: "After five long years of injustice, abuse and mental torture, my constituent should be coming back to her home in my constituency rather than going back to prison in Iran for another year.
“Time and time again I’ve been told by the prime minister that he is doing everything he can to bring Nazanin home and that he would leave no stone unturned. But very little seems to happen and opportunities to support her have been repeatedly missed."
Richard said Nazanin watched the debate over the internet, adding: "She watched it and for her, the things she noticed were that Dominic Raab wasn't there – she wanted to know why she wasn't important enough – and that Jeremy Hunt was wearing a mask and it was the one she made him."
In the debate Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said Nazanin's release on furlough in March 2020 and the removal of her ankle tag earlier this year were as a result of UK lobbying.
Richard said: "With respect, let's not elide that Nazanin finished her sentence. She didn't get parole, she didn't get clemency.
"She finished her sentence and now they've given her effectively another two years. I don't see how you can possibly claim that's an achievement.
"Part of that is blame management. The minister very clearly said we need to focus on Iran. Of course we do need to be critical of them. It's a crime against humanity.
"But he didn't use the word hostage, or the word torture.
"He kept saying the UK does not accept our citizens being held for diplomatic leverage. I think that's exactly what they are doing. They have allowed Nazanin to be held for five years and two more are coming."
Tulip asked James Cleverly in the Commons: “Will the minister acknowledge that Nazanin is being held hostage by Iran and is a victim of torture?”
He declined to do so. He told Tulip her "anger and frustration is misdirected", adding: "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the other British dual nationals held in arbitrary detention are being held by Iran. It is on them.”
Conservative former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt asked him to explain what consequences Iran would face for its continuing treatment of Nazanin and other UK citizens held in Iran, saying: "We know they don’t fundamentally care what we think or what we say.
"Ultimately what are the consequences going to be for Iran of continuing with hostage diplomacy because otherwise it’s all bark and no bite.”
The minister said lobbying would continue and added: "I can assure him we will investigate the full range of options.”
He did not say what those options might be.
Richard said Nazanin was "restless and worried" overnight, and grew frustrated watching the debate in parliament. As she has during her time under house arrest, she called her family in the UK to watch daughter Gabriella get ready for school this morning.