My response to constituents who contacted me this month about Richard Ratcliffe’s hunger strike:
Richard Ratcliffe’s hunger strike. Richard ended his hunger strike after 21 days on Saturday 13th November.
Unfortunately, due to my role and commitments in the Shadow Cabinet, I was unable to attend the debate last week, however, I’m in constant contact with the family’s MP, Tulip Siddiq, who has done a great job liaising with and representing Richard and his family. I also spoke with Richard at his hunger strike outside the FCDO building last week.
If you would like to watch the debate, you can do so here: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/211390d7-dba6-4310-9312-8d6e58119d9e?fbclid=IwAR0Tcj35xOQObvSCP8SSHb5pqLx7qFdMXIs0yFkZf49hKrDuKyeTzmGvw4M
I strongly condemn the Iranian authorities’ imprisonment of dual British-Iranian nationals and believe they should be released immediately. We need to see urgent action by the Government to secure her release. Whilst the Government has shown very little leadership on this, Richard Ratcliffe’s bravery and resilience have amazed me.
It has been well over five years since Nazanin was unlawfully imprisoned by the Iranian authorities on false charges. In that time, she has suffered terribly in Evin prison – where she was denied medical treatment – and she has been under house arrest in Iran since March, during which time she has been prevented from leaving and ankle tagged.
Nazanin has been separated from her husband Richard this whole time, and she hasn’t seen her daughter Gabriella for two years. The toll this has taken on Nazanin and her family is hard to comprehend, and my thoughts are with them. I have been campaigning to protect Nazanin from mistreatment in Iran and get her back home to the UK.
Nazanin’s original five-year prison sentence ended on 7 March 2021. Cruelly, she was subsequently given a new one-year sentence and banned from leaving Iran for a further year. On 16 October 2021, Nazanin lost an appeal against these new charges.
The Government’s approach to securing the release of UK nationals unfairly imprisoned in Iran has not worked to date. I believe this is a sustained failure of British diplomacy.
We have previously secured urgent question debates on her case in the House of Commons, and I supported my colleague Tulip Siddiq who is Nazanin’s MP, in her application for an urgent debate recently. You can watch the question and response from the FCDO here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/83f97daa-3aa7-4d29-9910-251d58e1feed?in=17:24:26
There is so much more the UK Government should be doing to help Nazanin, and it is right that we get the opportunity to press them on this.
Regarding ransoms, it is clear now what the issue is, money was paid to the UK by Iran over 40 years ago for 1,500 Chieftain tanks that were never delivered. While there should be no suggestion of any sort of ‘ransom’ being paid by the Government, I believe this debt should be settled.
Indeed, the Prime Minister himself (when he was Foreign Secretary) told Richard Ratcliffe that the debt would be paid. More recently, several distinguished former Foreign Secretaries, of different political parties, have said that the debt should be paid. That is about the UK’s credibility and doing what is right.
On diplomatic protection, the Government should be fully using Nazanin’s diplomatic protection that was granted in 2019, but they aren’t. She should have a right to private consular meetings, immediate access to independent medical examinations, the Government could issue a formal protest to the Iranian authorities, it could summon the Iranian Ambassador, it could propose to the Iranian authorities the immediate commencement of formal negotiations to resolve the dispute and it could send a detailed legal memorandum to the Iranian authorities of its breaches of international law. However, we are time and again met with inaction from the Prime Minister. I am happy to raise this issue with the FCDO and will contact you once I have received a response.
I am also concerned about the continued detention of Anoosheh Ashoori. Just a few weeks ago Anoosheh was told that he has lost his legal bid for jail release. Reports about the conditions in which Anoosheh is being held are deeply worrying and his case must not be forgotten.
I believe it is vital that the Government has a clear and agreed strategy for Nazanin and other dual British-Iranian nationals, such as Anoosheh Ashoori, to ensure they are brought home as soon as possible.
I would like to see the Government now pursue concrete steps, such as imposing human rights sanctions, to pressure the Iranian authorities to bring an end to Nazanin’s ordeal. I will continue to follow developments closely.
Thanks again for getting in touch about this important issue. I will continue to do everything I can to fight for Nazanin’s freedom and hold the UK Government to account for its failed approach to securing this.