Free Nazanin: Gabriella returns to London, cake and a toyshop but Nazanin devastated in Iran
PUBLISHED: 17:37 11 October 2019 | UPDATED: 17:37 11 October 2019
A smiling Gabriella Ratcliffe emerged from a back room to help father Richard cut a ‘welcome home’ cake at the Houses of Parliament today.
Although her mum - and Richard's wife - Nazanin remains in Iran's Evin prison and fears for her continue to grow, Gabriella, 5, returned to the UK late on Thurday night.
Speaking to the media, Richard said getting Gabriella an exit visa had been difficult and had involved interrogrators visiting Nazanin - who has been held in Iran since April 2016.
He said Nazanin had been asked whether she wanted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to block the visa, and she was also threatened with the prospect of the second court case against her being re-opened.
Richard said he had spoken to Nazanin over the phone since Gabriella left. He said: "She was really upset. It's one of the things she's really didn't want to happen. I was really worried about taking this step, one of things that Nazanin looks forward to is seeing her girl. We will just have to see how she is."
Until last night, Gabriella had not been in the same room as her father since before her second birthday.
The second trial, which Nazanin was again threatened with, is the one which was set in motion after Boris Johnson's erroneous assertion that Nazanin had been training journalists.
Asked whether he had confidence in the now Prime Minister's ability to get Nazanin released, Richard said he had a second chance to "be our hero".
Local MP Tulip Siddiq also hit out at the UK government for its failure to solve Nazanin's case.
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She said: "Most importantly, I am Gabriella's MP. I am delighted to welcome the newest member of my constituency to London. Obviously, this is a time to celebrate, but Nazanin still isn't home.
"It's not good enough. She wants to know why the British government is not doing enough to get her out."
She called on the British government to settle the £400m debt it owes Iran and added: "I have now dealt with three Prime Ministers, four foreign secretaries, three ministers for the Middle East - every single one has looked me in the eye and said it's nothing to do with debt between us and Iran. But we know that's not true.
"Nazanin and her family have been told by the IRGC that the debt is linked to her imprisonment."
Richard said Gabriella had asked to visit a toyshop on her first afternoon back in London, and while he wasn't sure precisely when she would begin school, it would be at "the nearest one, probably" and potentially as early as the week after October half-term.
"She asked me today if she was going to school today," he said. "Because she knows we have told her she was coming back to the UK so she could go to school. We haven't finalised the place - in simple terms it'll be the nearest school".
He added both his wife and daughter had "put on brave faces" during a prison visit earlier this week.
Asked about the moments when they were re-united, he continued: "I realised I was starting to squeeze her too hard.
During the press conference, a reporter asked Gabriella in Farsi what her favourite flavour of cake was, and she replied: "Chocalate."
At the moment, her English is limited, but Richard said he thought daily life and starting school would see it improve quickly.
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