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Free Nazanin: 'Do more to protect UK nationals' says Richard Ratcliffe as hunger strike becomes talk of House of Commons

PUBLISHED: 17:45 26 June 2019

Emily Thornberry meets Richard Ratcliffe. Picture: Linda Grove

Emily Thornberry meets Richard Ratcliffe. Picture: Linda Grove

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On day 12 of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe's hunger strike, MPs wore badges in support of Nazanin to Prime Minister's Questions, and her case was raised in parliament again.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Richard Ratcliffe. Picture: @JeremyCorbynLabour leader Jeremy Corbyn visits Richard Ratcliffe. Picture: @JeremyCorbyn

Nazanin's plight in Iran has featured prominently on the political agenda this week, and campaigners including Richard have called on the Government to do more to protect the rights of British citizens abroad.

This is one of the things Richard has discussed with visitors, who have included senior figures Sadiq Khan, the defence secretary Penny Mordaunt and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry all visiting Richard as he camps out in front of the Iranian Embassy in Knightsbridge.

A parade of MPs have visited following Jeremy Corbyn's trip across London on Monday evening.

This morning Richard was awaiting news from Nazanin - who at the weekend was interrogated again, threatened with another conviction and longer sentence and blocked from seeing daughter Gabriella, five.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with a young Gabriella before Nazanin was arrested in April 2016. Picture: Free NazaninNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with a young Gabriella before Nazanin was arrested in April 2016. Picture: Free Nazanin

The West Hampstead couple have been on strike demanding Nazanin's release since June 15.

On Tuesday Emily Thornberry, who has previously raised Nazanin's case in Parliament, told this newspaper why she had visited.

She said: "I had promised to be here, and I have supported them for a very long time."

The senior shadow minister and Islington South MP added that she felt "things had got stuck" with regard to Nazanin's case, and that she was "always optimistic" the joint hunger strike could make a difference.

Former political prisoner Andy Tsege and wife Yemi at a book signing at the Ethiopian Embassy in Knightsbridge. Picture: Daren NairFormer political prisoner Andy Tsege and wife Yemi at a book signing at the Ethiopian Embassy in Knightsbridge. Picture: Daren Nair

"The situation at the moment in Iran might actually be helpful. In a weird way the backdrop might actually get people to talk about this."

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She added that she had been inspired by "not just the human rights campaigners or the politicians, but all of the normal people who've taken time out of their day" to visit Richard.

She also spoke of having campaigned alongside Richard for the release of a British citizen detained on political grounds abroad - Upper Holloway's Andy Tsege.

Stock image of Emily Thornberry on bike. Picture: Linda GroveStock image of Emily Thornberry on bike. Picture: Linda Grove

"We were talking about the fact that 18 months ago we were outside Downing Street with Yemi [Hailemariam], and she and Andy were here at the weekend in the Ethiopian Embassy. That's really powerful."

This weekend Andy and his wife Yemi Hailemariam were at the adjacent Ethiopian Embassy themselves - Andy was signing a book he has written about his experiences.

In the past Richard and Yemi have campaigned together for the release of their partners - and in his video diary yesterday, Richard referenced Andy's case, and that of jailed Scotsman Jagtar Singh Johal who is being held in India.

He said: ""I don't think the government does a good enough job protecting British citizens abroad.

"There are a number of families who I work with who have been struggling for their loved ones in prison in India and Ethiopia. It's important that there are rights and that the government has your back."

Amnesty UK activist Daren Nair, who has spent the last 12 days supporting the Ratcliffe family and Richard throughout his strike, also visited Andy's book signing.

He told the Ham&High: "It was great to see Andy and Yemi reunited and happy.

"Like Richard Ratcliffe, Yemi's campaigning to free Andy was phenomenal. She wouldn't have had to go to such great lengths though if our government did more to protect the rights of British citizens overseas."

Over the weekend Richard held a number of demonstrations including a singalong and stone painting. He told the Ham&High: "So many people who have been following the story have come to meet us. It's been lovely - we've had a number of Iranians who have been through similar things come down too." He explained that "there's clearly stuff going on behind the scenes, we just have to wait and see what that is".

Foreign office minister Dr Andrew Murrison called for "unconditional release" when he discussed Nazanin's case in Iran this weekend.

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