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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Labour MP Tulip Siddiq in new Commons challenge

British-Australian woman released from same Iranian jail but West Hampstead charity worker's ordeal continues

10 October, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard before her imprisonment

HAMPSTEAD and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has challenged Boris Johnson and government officials to “look themselves in the mirror” and say they have done everything to stop a West Hampstead mother dying in prison.

She tabled an urgent question to the House of Commons on Monday demanding answers about why the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from a jail in Iran has not been secured after three-and-a-half years.

The charity worker has been sentenced to at least five years in prison on vague spying charges, which she has denied. Global attention on the case has failed to make a breakthrough and last week Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had to make the decision to send her daughter back to London so she could start school.

Gabriella was just a toddler when her mother was stopped at Tehran airport on her way back from a family holiday and has been living with grandparents while Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been locked up.

Ms Siddiq brought the case back to the Commons after the high-profile release of a British-Australian woman, Jolie King, from the same prison – a victory that Ms Siddiq said raised questions about how the Australian government had been able to “achieve such rapid progress” while the British government has failed.

She told MPs: “My constituent has now been imprisoned for three-and -a-half years, during which she’s been in solitary confinement, she’s been chained to her bed and shackled, she’s been through depression, she’s been suicidal, she’s been on hunger strike and they found lumps on her breast. And amongst all of this one of her biggest traumas is the changing of fortunes of her fellow prisoners. Prisoners will come in, she will become close to them, and they will leave and go home, but she remains in prison.”

She added: “I want the prime minister and ministers of this government to be able to look themselves in the mirror in years to come and say that they did everything possible to ensure that my constituent did not die in prison in Iran.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is regarded by many to have been held in a political power struggle between Iran and the United Kingdom and a victim of worsening relations between the two countries.

MP Tulip Siddiq

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, the Islington South MP, told the debate that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case was linked directly to “the restoration of the money Iran is owed” for tanks bought by the UK “prior to the Iranian revolution”, adding: “Regardless of the situation with Nazanin, the legal facts are clear, Iran is owed the money and the Treasury has set the money aside. All that remains is to determine the exact amount and to establish a means by which it can be paid over without breaching sanctions regulations.”

Responding, foreign office minister Dr Andrew Murrison MP said the repayment plan was “before the courts”. But he added the comparison with Ms Jolie was “unlikely to be helpful” as Ms King is considered by Iran to be a “foreign national” while Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is considered to be Iranian, despite her having “dual national” status in this country.

At Monday’s full council meeting, it was ruled there was not enough time for councillors to pass a motion calling for Mr Johnson to meet Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Council leader Georgia Gould said yesterday (Wednesday) that a cross-party letter would be sent to the prime minister.

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