'Johnson again and again promises to leave no stone unturned, and yet...'
Tulip Siddiq MP, Hampstead and Kilburn
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
It is coming up to six years since my constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken hostage in Iran on false charges.
Nazanin has been locked in Evin prison for much of this time, subjected to horrific abuse and unable to see her daughter Gabriella or husband Richard. She has been left in a state of limbo as yet more trumped-up charges have been levelled against her to prevent her return to her home in West Hampstead.
This ordeal must come to an end, and I have supported Richard Ratcliffe in keeping this issue at the forefront of the government’s agenda and in the public’s eye.
At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, I put this issue directly to the Boris Johnson, who has time and time again promised to leave no stone unturned to secure Nazanin’s release.
I put to the prime minister my understanding that last summer the UK government made an agreement with Iran to pay the historic £400 million International Military Services (IMS) debt we owe them and secure Nazanin’s release. However, that agreement fell through and the debt has still not been paid. I asked the prime minister if he would meet with me and Richard personally to explain why this agreement fell through and outline the exact steps he will take to free Nazanin after six long years of unlawful and unjust detainment.
In the six years that I have been fighting to secure Nazanin’s release as her local MP, I have dealt with five foreign secretaries and numerous ministers, who have all given different excuses for why the government has been unable or unwilling to pay the IMS debt and free Nazanin.
This needs the prime minister’s personal attention, and I do not want to hear excuses from any more of his colleagues. He owes it to my constituent to meet with me and Richard, especially given that it was his own blunder as foreign secretary – when he made misleading claims about Nazanin’s situation – which set back Nazanin’s case.
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As ever with Boris Johnson and this Conservative government, the response I got was filled with excuses, bluster and more empty promises. This has never been good enough, and with each delay the torment for Nazanin and the other British citizens detained in Iran goes on. I will keep fighting for their freedom.
Tulip Siddiq is Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.