Tory MP slams government for 'staying silent' on Iranian human rights abuse including case of Nazanin Ratcliffe
PUBLISHED: 11:35 05 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:36 05 August 2016
Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer has slammed the government for its "shameful" failure to stand up to the Iranian government, citing the case of imprisoned West Hampstead woman Nazarim Ratcliffe as an example of its inaction.
Mr Freer, a Conservative, has written a strongly worded blog post criticising his own party’s government for “staying silent in the pursuit of better trade relations” as Iran continues to violate international human rights laws.
He said: “On top of these human rights violations and abuses, British citizens are bearing the brunt of Iran’s intolerance and its continued animosity towards the West.
“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national visiting relatives in Iran with her 22 month old daughter, was detained in April and held in solitary confinement – without charge. She remains in prison.”
And the MP warned: “By staying silent in the pursuit of better trade relations, we are giving Iran the green light to continue to build its arsenal of missiles, operate as a malicious actor across the Middle East and repress human rights. This must not continue.”
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the signing of a nuclear deal between Iran and six countries including the UK – which was welcomed by some as a breakthrough deal in diplomatic relations.
But Mr Freer said: “Instead of closer relations, western observers have looked on in dismay as Iran’s record on human rights has deteriorated, the opposition has been systematically crushed and the financing of terrorist elements across the region has continued.”
He said that both the UK and the US have “stayed silent” in the face of Iran’s failure to act “in the spirit of the deal” and its continued repression of its own people.
“They have been shamed by other organisations and governments brave enough to stand up, and point out clearly how Iran is continuing to treat the West with contempt in the Middle East and beyond.”
The MP said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had the courage to stand up and be counted by pointing out that Iran was failing to act in the spirit of the deal – in contrast to the UK government.
Mr Freer said he agrees with the US that Iran is “the world’s biggest state sponsor of terror” – and so finds it incredible that, “the Obama administration asks Western businesses to invest and trade with this same country.”
In 2015 Iran was the world’s top-ranking country for the death penalty, executing nearly 1,000 people including women and children.
Ms Ratcliffe, a 37-year-old charity worker, has been hauled before the Iranian court after spending more than four months in prison.
She and her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, were detained at Tehran airport on April 3 as they tried to return to the UK after visiting her parents.
Nazanin was then thrown into jail without charge and denied access to a lawyer – although in a recent, rare phone call to her husband Richard, she said she is at last being allowed legal representation.
Gabriella’s British passport was seized, and she remains trapped in Iran, being looked after by her grandparents.
It remains unclear what the precise charges against Nazanin are, although accusations have been made in the Iranian press that she is part of a network plotting against the Iranian state.
Mr Freer’s words echo the views of Mr Ratcliffe, who recently told the Ham&High: “It remains shameful to Britain that our government has never publicly criticised the Iranian regime for its detention of Nazanin and Gabriella, and that it continues to promote trade opportunities in Iran, given the risks these now present.”
A petition stated by Mr Ratcliffe calling on the British government to apply more pressure on Iran to free his wife has been signed by more than 800,000 people.
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has raised the case with Downing Street – but it is unknown what action the foreign office is taking on behalf of Nazanin.