'We should to pay debt to free Nazanin' - Tulip Siddiq MP
- Credit: PA
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's MP Tulip Siddiq said there is a direct “correlation” between debt hearings being postponed and Iran taking action against her constituent.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been sentenced to another year in Iranian prison, after a second trial over charges of spreading anti-government propaganda in Iran.
Nazanin has always denied the charges. She was in Iran visiting her parents with her then-newborn daughter Gabriella when she was arrested.
In March she completed a five-year sentence.
A High Court hearing into the debt Britain owes Iran was postponed again last week.
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The Hampstead and Kilburn MP told Sky News: “Whether she is called back into court, whether she’s told there’s another charge against her, or whether she’s told there’s one more year of prison time ahead of her, there seems to be a direct link between it, and there’s no point in the government burying their heads in the sand and saying there’s no link.”
Tulip said the link between the case and the money the UK owes Iran has never been acknowledged by ministers.
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“Bear in mind that I have now raised this issue with three prime ministers and five foreign secretaries and no one has ever admitted that there’s a link between the money we owe Iran, which is a historic debt, and the fact that Nazanin is still in prison,” she said.
Tulip added: “You are right to say that if we pay the debt it doesn’t mean it is the end of hostage-taking.
“But the fact is, if we owe someone money – and we do owe them money, we owe them £400 million –it went through a huge court case and a hearing, at the end it was said that the verdict is we owe them the money – maybe we should pay the money anyway.
“Whatever the result is, we should try to clear our debts, then we have a stronger position to negotiate releases of Nazanin and other prisoners.
“At the moment we can’t negotiate with them properly because they don’t trust us and we haven’t paid the money.”
Tulip is set to ask an urgent question about Nazanin's case in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday Richard Ratcliffe told the BBC: "It’s certainly a hard place to be. I think it’s a signal that is an open-ended detention until the debt-issue is solved.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that the government will be “working very hard” to secure Nazanin's release.
He told reporters during a visit to Wrexham: “Obviously we will have to study the detail of what the Iranian authorities are saying.
“I don’t think it is right at all that Nazanin should be sentenced to any more time in jail.
“I think it is wrong that she is there in the first place and we will be working very hard to secure her release from Iran, her ability to return to her family here in the UK, just as we work for all our dual national cases in Iran.
“The government will not stop, we will redouble our efforts, and we are working with our American friends on this issue as well.”