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Tree for jailed West Hampstead mum Nazanin is vandalised on second anniversary of her detention in Iran

PUBLISHED: 19:09 03 April 2018 | UPDATED: 19:09 03 April 2018

Supporters decorate the tree for Nazanin with ribbons, flowers and jokes. Picture: Linda Grove

Supporters decorate the tree for Nazanin with ribbons, flowers and jokes. Picture: Linda Grove

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A tree decorated with yellow ribbons, flowers and jokes for jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been vandalised on the eve of the second anniversary of her detention in Iran.

Richard Ratcliffe with supporters including his MP Tulip Siddiq. Picture: Linda GroveRichard Ratcliffe with supporters including his MP Tulip Siddiq. Picture: Linda Grove

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe who was joined by more than a dozen supporters to decorate the tree yesterday discovered it had been sabotaged and stripped bare at around 9:30am this morning.

He said: “It was a shock to discover this morning that someone had stripped our One Day Tree of all the jokes and smiles, and taken all the flowers off, it looks to me like someone has cut down what they could reach without a ladder - some ribbons remain, but no flowers, only one straggling message.”

This comes on the day two years ago that Nazanin and daughter Gabriella, then one, were arrested at Tehran Airport by revolutionary guards as they tried to return home after a family holiday in Iran.

Nazanin was thrown into prison and is now serving a five year sentence for plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime while Gabriella remains trapped in Iran living with her grandparents. Nazanin denies the charges.

Richard's sister Becca Ratcliffe found the tree vandalised this morning. Picture: Becca RatcliffeRichard's sister Becca Ratcliffe found the tree vandalised this morning. Picture: Becca Ratcliffe

The tree was decorated on bank holiday Monday by supporters as part of a campaign to collect jokes and messages of laughter to lift Nazanin’s spirits in jail and as a symbol of her continued detention.

As reported in the Ham&High, the same tree, on Fortune Green opposite the Ratcliffe family home on West End Lane, was vandalised last year when supporters had decorated it with freedom messages.

Richard said: “When it happened last year, I mistakenly harangued the council. A year on and again it feels to be politically motivated. And it feels important not to get angry but to reaffirm the message on the tree - there is a different world possible and waiting, we will keep going until she is home.”

During the event Richard expressed his disappointment at the failure of Boris Johnson to free Nazanin and described his ordeal as “a test of endurance”.

Nazanin and Gabriella  Ratcliffe before they were detained in Iran. Picture: Ratcliffe FamilyNazanin and Gabriella Ratcliffe before they were detained in Iran. Picture: Ratcliffe Family

The foreign secretary travelled to Tehran before Christmas to discuss her case with his Iranian counterparts, but came back emptyhanded.

It has been revealed by the Ratcliffe family lawyer that Nazanin is being held over a a £450 million debt owed by Britain to Iran over an arms deal dating back to before the Islamic Revolution almost 40 years ago. The two countries are said to now be arguing over the interest on this debt.

Richard Ratcliffe said the battle to set his wife free had become a “test of endurance”,

“We didn’t expect to be needing to mark this anniversary..but it remains a cold late Spring, he said.

“Our story has become a test of endurance, and there is a need to recharge spirits. We wanted this anniversary to be an occasion where we drew positive energy.”

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, who was at the event added: “In November the foreign secretary promised to ‘leave no stone unturned’. But since his trip to Tehran, he has been missing in action. Nazanin does not have the luxury of time, and Boris Johnson must act before her situation gets worse.

“If he can’t deliver on this, then it is time that the Prime Minister stepped in.”

Mr Ratcliffe said recent weeks have been a low point for his wife in Iran, and she has suffered periodic panic attacks in her sleep.

He has requested to meet Mr Johnson with lawyers present, to ask what Nazanin’s rights are as the stand off continues.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “On the second anniversary of Nazanin’s arrest we continue to approach her case, and all of our British-Iranian consular cases, in a way that we judge is most likely to secure the outcome we all want.

“Therefore we will not be providing a running commentary on every twist and turn.”

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