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Camden Council meeting descends into farce as mayor decides there's not enough time for Nazanin motion

PUBLISHED: 18:12 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:30 09 October 2019

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since 2016. Picture: Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since 2016. Picture: Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

PA Wire/PA Images

Camden Council last night failed for the second time to hear a motion condemning Iran for its continued imprisonment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, as councillors' monthly meeting ended in confusion.

Mayor of Camden, Maryam Eslamdoust. Picture: Vanessa Berberian.Mayor of Camden, Maryam Eslamdoust. Picture: Vanessa Berberian.

The motion by Lib Dems Luisa Porritt and Tom Simon called upon council leader Georgia Gould to write to Boris Johnson on behalf of the town hall, urging him to set up a meeting with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

But with four minutes of the scheduled meeting still remaining, and members including Cllr Gould herself and her deputy Pat Callaghan saying there was still time to discuss the proposal, mayor Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust said: "I have a baby, I'm leaving, so the deputy [Cllr Sabrina Francis] can take over."

She was then told by the council's chief executive Jenny Rowlands that the meeting had closed. A council spokesperson today told the Ham&High that once the mayor formally closes a meeting it cannot be reopened.

This came after an agreement reportedly made beforehand, according to Cllr Porritt, that there would be time put aside for all motions to be heard "in the spirit of cross party consensus".

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Footage of the incident was deleted from Camden Council's website earlier today. The video of the meeting now ends halfway through Cllr Porritt's point of order. A council spokesperson said this was in line with usual practices, and the footage had been cut when the meeting officially ended.

Cllr Porritt told this newspaper afterwards: "It was disappointing that the time left to hear the motion on Nazanin was not used, given there was a consensus in the room that it should be proposed and voted on. This is the second time we have put forward a motion to Camden Council about her case. It had cross-party support so would have passed - it's a shame the opportunity wasn't taken for the council to have its say."

A Camden Council spokesperson said: "The mayor had already formally closed the meeting prior to this point of order being raised. Once the meeting has been closed it cannot be reopened.

"When less than five minutes of a scheduled council meeting remaining, the mayor, as chair, has to make a decision on whether or not to close the meeting or proceed to the next item. This decision is based on whether it is both practically possible to complete the business remaining and whether there is sufficient time to give an item the time and consideration it warrants."

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