Yesterday I visited Richard Ratcliffe, who has been on hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in protest against the continued imprisonment of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
In April 2016, Nazanin and her two year old daughter Gabriella were arrested at Tehran airport after visiting family in Iran. Iran does not recognise dual citizens, and Nazanin has been illegally imprisoned ever since on false espionage charges.
Both Nazanin and Richard have been on hunger strike for eleven days now, and yesterday the Iranian authorities denied Nazanin her weekly visit from her daughter Gabriella.
This was the same day that Andrew Murrison, Foreign Office minister, personally called for Iran to release Nazanin while on a diplomatic visit to Tehran. Unfortunately, Iran again rejected these calls and reiterated that Nazanin will serve a full five year prison sentence.
While I am relieved that the Government is now taking Nazanin’s case seriously, we should not forget the role that Boris Johnson had in potentially endangering Nazanin’s life further with his remarks as Foreign Secretary in 2017. When taking questions at a foreign affairs select committee hearing, Johnson falsely claimed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists while in Tehran, enabling Iran to further discredit the case for her release. This was a disgraceful mistake from a Foreign Secretary that put Nazanin at even greater risk.
Richard has been a tireless campaigner for his wife and daughter’s safe return to the UK, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet him in person and offer my full support. It is important that we continue to keep up the pressure and keep Nazanin’s story in the press until both her and Gabriella are safely brought back home.