PHOTO GALLERY: Ham&High editor reports from march to free West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from jail in Iran
PUBLISHED: 22:38 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 23:49 05 December 2016
In a deeply moving show of community around 200 Hampstead mums and dads with buggies, friends and family joined our march through central London today for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
They stood side by side with Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe and his mother Barbara Ratcliffe to demand that his wife and their two-year-old Gabriella are returned home in time for Christmas.
Hampstead actor Tom Conti also came along in a show of support for Nazanin, 37, who has been thrown into jail without a fair trial and no specific charges.
As she becomes increasingly frail and desperate we are urgently calling for her to be brought home in time for Christmas.
The Ham&High, Hampstead solicitor Jessica-Learmond-Criqui and community campaigner Linda Grove organised the march following the alarming news that Nazanin has written a goodbye letter to her family and that her physical and mental health have deteriorated following a hunger strike last week.
We handed in letters to prime minister Theresa May and foreign secretary Boris Johnson demanding that the British government does more to secure her release.
As reported in the Ham&High, Thomson Reuters charity worker Nazanin and Gabriella, now two, were seized at Tehran airport on April 3 as they returned from a family holiday to visit her parents in Iran.
Nazanin, who has dual Anglo-Iranian nationality, was thrown in jail and Gabriella’s passport was seized, leaving her trapped in Iran where she is being cared for by her grandparents.
In September, she was sentenced to five years in jail by a court on unspecified ‘secret’ charges.
Accountant Richard, of Fortune Green Road, believes Nazanin is being held as a bargaining tool by the Iranian government following a revelation that the British government owes Iran £500million over military contracts dating back decades.
He has been campaigning tirelessly for her release and has started a petition which has 843,000 signatures here.
As we marched, he told me: “If she is still there at Christmas and on her birthday on December 26, she will break. We are doing everything we can to bring her home. If she is not home for Christmas, then I am determined to Iran to be with her. I have to be there now.”
He is making moves to secure himself a visa but has so far been unsuccessful.
On Saturday, he was allowed a phone conversation with Nazanin.
“I even got to tell Nazanin of the march and all the messages we are receiving. She was deeply moved.”
We organisers were also so moved to see how many people marched from the Hampstead community including many mums and dads with buggies, grandparents, former colleagues and university friends of Nazanin and Richard and others from across Britian who wanted to help.
Andrew Dobbie, who used to work with Nazanin at Thomson Reuters said: “She was such a happy, sociable person. These charges are preposterous. There is nobody less likely than Nazanin to have committed any offences against her country.”
Clergyman Stephen Winter travelled from his church St Michaels, in Stourport, near Birmingham. He said: “I read about the march on social media was so moved by it and I wasn’t doing anything today and just wanted to be here.
Wendy Robinson, from Hackney, is a friend of Richard’s from their days at Edinburgh University. She was a guest at the couple’s wedding and said: “I am trying to show my support. At Christmas time it is even more poignant they have been separated. We want to see them reunited.”
Richard’s mother Barbara said: “As a mother, this is so painful to see their suffering. It is dreadful for Nazanin’s parents in Iran too. They are completely helpless and feel responsible. They are doing a great job looking after Gabriella.”
Iranian media organisations were filming and reporting on the march and we can only hope that it has some effect and that Nazanin is home for Christmas.
Hampstead mums march on Downing Street
Nazanin's husband Richard Ratcliffe and Ham&High editor Emily Banks
Jessica Learmond-Criqui, Tom Conti, Linda Grove and Emily Banks outside 10 Downing Street.
Messages of support for Nazanin were handed in to the Foreign Office.
Hampstead mums march along Piccadilly
The protest marches past the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
Co-organiser Linda Grove (right) marches side by side with Nazanin's mother-in-law Barbara Ratcliffe
Hampstead mums including Anna Nash-Steer and baby Lucy chant Free Nazanin slogans on Parliament Square
After delivering letters to both Number 10 and the Foreign Office the protestors lined up in Parliament Square to call for Nazanin to be freed.
Delivering a letter to the Foreign Office from left Linda Grove, Jessica Learmond-Criqui, Tom Conti and Emily Banks
Demonstrators line up directly opposite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and call for both Theresa May and Boris Johnson to take some action.
. Co organiser Linda Grove with a card of messages that were handed in to the Foreign Office
. Demonstrators line up opposite Downing Street and call on Theresa May to bring Nazanin home
Hampstead mums and children set off from Green Park
Protesters march alongside Richard Ratcliffe with his mother Barbara Ratcliffe
March for Nazanin
As we left the march and headed for home, Richard said: “I am so moved that so many people care and grateful to everone for coming along. I really believe it will make a difference.”