Nazanin ‘is either home or a hostage she remains’: Foreign office summons ‘a useful step’, but Richard Ratcliffe warns ‘debilitating’ limbo can’t continue
PUBLISHED: 17:48 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:48 24 September 2020
Richard Ratcliffe has welcomed news that the UK foreign office, along with its French and German counterparts, summoned Iran’s ambassador to send a message understood to relate to the treatment of imprisoned dual-nationals and political prisoners.
Hamid Baedinijad, Iran’s ambassador in the UK, was handed a letter by senior foreign office staff on Tuesday, and the Iranian ambassadors in France and Germany were due for the same treatment this week.
It comes after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) revived its second court case against Nazanin – and followed that up by harassing her and her parents at their home in Tehran.
She remains out of prison on furlough authorised at the height of the initial phase of the coronavirus pandemic, but she remains subject to an ankle tag preventing her from leaving the premises.
READ MORE: ‘Nazanin’s daughter deserves to have her mother beside her’
Richard told the Ham&High he had written to the foreign office to thank them for the co-ordinated action, which he said was “a useful step”.
He added: “I am sure the UK did it as a response to the latest harassment and games by the IRGC - and we had been pushing the government hard to set some red lines.”
However for Richard it is important that the UK and its partners follow-up the latest communications.
He reiterated he was concerned should the current situation with Nazanin a hostage effectively under house arrest continue indefinitely.
He added he was concerned that with Nazanin’s sentence due to finish next year and continuing discussions on the £400m debt the UK owe Iran set for November, “both sides are just waiting for this to naturally end”.
READ MORE: Free Nazanin: New trial ‘unacceptable and indefensible’ says 10 Downing Street
He said were there to be any tacit agreement, it would be anxiety-inducing. He warned the revived court case and recent harassment was evidence that the Iranian authorities were not always acting as one.
Richard continued: “Even if she gets to the end of her sentence, and is notionally “released” there is no guarantee she actually would be allowed to come home. The UK has a very poor record of getting this to happen. Many other British prisoners have been kept in Iran even after the end of their sentence. There’s no reason to presume we would be any different.
“Second, the current status quo – with the IRGC games and harassment, the ankle tag preventing her visiting anyone and so few people daring to come to her, the continuing denial of health care, the threats of reimprisonment, and the fact that each month makes it less likely she can ever have another child again – is incredibly debilitating for us all.”
He continued: “Talking about Nazanin staying out of prison or getting access to health care is missing the point. This is hostage taking, and it is binary. She is either home, or a hostage she remains.
“A hostage with an ankle tag is just a hostage in different clothes.”
Nazanin has now been detained in Iran for well over four years.
Earlier this week her family explained how since the second trial failed to materialise – it had been due to take place on Sunday September 13.
After it was postponed, Nazanin explained how she “just wanted to scream out loud for 10 minutes, or to bang my head against the wall – just to let it out”.
Through Richard, she added: “I really can’t take it any more. They have all these games, and I have no power in them.”
Since then she has complained of harassment, saying IRGC guards had visited her claiming her tag had been broken and intimidated her with threats about sending her back to prison.
Concern about Iran’s attitude to human rights comes also after a professional wrestler Navid Afkari was executed over an incident during a protest, while others including British-Australian Kylie Moore Gilbert and south Londoner Anoosheh Ashoori remain detained as hostages in the middle-eastern nation’s prison system.
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