Since I first became Mid Sussex’s MP, I have been inundated with emails about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and other dual nationals wrongfully detained in Iran. Constituents have recently been highlighting this issue to me once again, as Nazanin’s husband, Mr Richard Ratcliffe, has been partaking in a hunger strike, which ended just over a week ago. I cannot imagine how difficult the last 5 years have been for Nazanin and her whole family,
I want to thank all of you for raising this issue with me which, as a mother and MP, I find truly heart-breaking. Following this, I have decided to write to my colleague, the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, to highlight the concerns of constituents and enquire as to what steps this Government are taking to seek a solution and secure the release of Nazanin and all other dual nationals being wrongly held in Iran. The letter can be found in the attached document on this page.
It is simply outrageous and unacceptable that Iran have continued with a second, wholly arbitrary, case against Nazanin. British Embassy staff in Tehran requested access to Nazanin's court hearing, as they have done for previous hearings, as part of their ongoing efforts to secure her release. I condemn the inhumane and wholly unjustified decision by the Iranian authorities to sentence Nazanin to another year in prison, with no court hearing. They must release her and allow her to return home.
I know this issue is a top priority for the Foreign Secretary, who spoke to her Iranian counterpart on Monday 8 November, raising Nazanin's case and indeed that of all British nationals unfairly detained in Iran. Foreign Office officials met with the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister on 11 November, including to press firmly for the immediate release of unfairly detained British nationals. Furthermore, the Foreign Secretary has spoken with Nazanin and Richard and her department continues to do everything it can to secure Nazanin's release, and indeed of all British dual nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran. Whilst on hunger strike, Richard met with the Foreign Secretary, Minister Cleverly and senior FCDO officials.
We also had a Westminster Hall debate last week on this matter, and while I wished I could have attended, I was unable to, as only the Government Minister whose portfolio covers the subject of the debate can partake and answer questions from backbench MPs in Westminster Hall debates. However, I was pleased to see it was standing room only and there was cross party consensus on this and condemnation of Iran’s actions.
During the debate, the Foreign Office Minister, James Cleverly MP, said:
“A number of members have raised the issue of the International Military Services debt. As I have said to the House of a number of occasions the UK Government recognises we have a duty legally to repay this debt and we continue to explore all legal options to resolve this 40-year-old case. But we have always been clear that we do not accept British dual nationals being used as diplomatic leverage."
This is truly unbearable for the family who are in pain beyond belief, and I hope a swift resolution can be found soon. I must also add that, regarding the IMS debt, I know that the Government are exploring all options to resolve this 40 year old case, as ministers have reiterated to the House on numerous occasions. It would not be prudent for me to substantively comment on this matter as legal discussions are ongoing. The link between the £400 million debt to Iran and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention has not been officially recognised.
I will continue to monitor developments and raise constituents’ concerns with Ministers in the FCDO as this situation develops.