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Free Nazanin: Families of British citizens jailed abroad join together for annual Christmas carols

PUBLISHED: 16:02 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:05 19 December 2019

Richard Ratcliffe -- with daughter Gabriella at Christmas for the first time since 2016 -- singing carols in supported of detained wife Nazanin. Picture: Polly Hancock

Richard Ratcliffe -- with daughter Gabriella at Christmas for the first time since 2016 -- singing carols in supported of detained wife Nazanin. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

With Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe facing her fourth Christmas in prison in Iran, supporters made the now-annual trip to Downing Street to sing carols in her honour.

Supporters of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other UK citizens detained abroad signed a card for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Polly HancockSupporters of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other UK citizens detained abroad signed a card for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Polly Hancock

This year, politicians including former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, the SNP's Hannah Bardell and Labour's Emily Thornberry attended, as did the families of other British citizens in similar situations abroad.

Richard told the audience: "It's been a long hard slog for our campaign but it's made easier by the support we have. Part of the purpose of tonight is to remember all the other families who have people who are held abroad."

Other family members present included Sherry Izadi, whose husband Anousheh Ashoori has been held in Iran like Nazanin, since 2017 and Tish Kaur - whose brother Jaggi has been held without trial and allegedly tortured in India. They are also part of the British Rights Abroad Group set up earlier in 2019.

Daniela Tejada, whose partner Matthew Hedges was imprisoned in the UAE in 2018 spoke. She said: "Welcome home Gabriella. We are all very happy to see you here. I am sure that we will all be happier next year when you, your dad and your mum are all here.

"It's simply unacceptable that innocent people are only freed after there families fight for them and not after their government fights for them."

Ms Izadi added: "My husband is in a similar situation to Nazanin. I am really grateful for Richard having invited me here. What I want everyone to know is that Iran doesn't take hostages without having reason to do so.

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"In America's case it was for prisoner swap, in our case it is the money owed to them. Write to your MPs and urge the government to pay this debt."

Sherry said the most important reason for the carols was that it reminded prisoners like Nazanin and Anousheh that "even thousands of miles away, people are thinking about them and coming together to remember them".

This year Nazanin's daughter Gabriella, five, sang the carols in her father's arms - she was only brought home in October.

Hannah Bardell, who leads the All-Parliamentary Group on Deaths Abroad and Consular Assistance, said: "I don't know what to say other than that I can't imagine what it must be like for people facing this situation.

"We will work cross-party, we care. There are no easy answers."

Tish Kaur added: "We need our brother home, we have suffered because nobody wants to know about what's happening to him."

Jeremy Hunt, paid tribute to Richard. He said: "It is my privilege to be here. I was honoured to work with you during my time as foreign secretary but devastated not to make more progress. I want to pay tribute to you because you have done an absolutely incredible job."


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