Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me regarding the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Ever since Nazanin was imprisoned, I have been following her case closely, and I agree with everything you say not just regarding the gross injustice of her conviction and continued detention, but also the appalling physical and mental suffering she has endured at the hands of the Iranian authorities, and the intense cruelty of her continued separation from her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella, which has taken a terrible toll on them as well.
In my capacity as Shadow Foreign Secretary from 2016 to 2020, I personally raised Nazanin’s case in Parliament on a number of occasions, and I campaigned directly for her release in my communications with representatives of the Iranian government. I also held Boris Johnson to account when, through his reckless and erroneous comments about Nazanin’s case in 2017, he set back the hopes of getting her released.
Throughout that time, I consulted closely with Richard Ratcliffe and other supporters of Nazanin’s cause to coordinate our campaigns for her freedom in Parliament. I visited Richard when he went on hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in 2019, and again in Autumn when he went on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office for an astonishing 21 days.
Many of my other colleagues in the Labour Party have also been campaigning tirelessly for Nazanin’s release in recent years. As you will know, a Westminster Hall debate on Nazanin’s case took place on 16 November, initiated by her MP, Tulip Siddiq. At the end of the debate, Tulip shared with colleagues some words from Richard Ratcliffe, which I would also like to share with you below:
“Today marks day 2,054 of Nazanin’s detention. We are approaching our 6th Christmas apart. A little girl has been without her mother for 5 and a half years. It did not have to be like this. Back in 2017 – when the now Prime Minister scrambled following his false statements in Parliament that are still used to justify Nazanin’s second case – he promised to resolve the debt we owe to Iran which is the reason for Nazanin’s detention, effectively setting a price for her release. He has now been Prime Minister for two years, yet that promise is unkept – but remembered in Tehran. The Prime Minister did not visit me on hunger strike, though he did pass one morning without coming over. His government continues to put British citizens in harm’s way. Nazanin’s story shames this country.”
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to maintain these efforts on behalf of Nazanin, Richard and Gabriella for as long as it takes, and we will continue to demand that the government does everything they possibly can to end Nazanin’s suffering and bring her home.
The fight for justice is often long and arduous for our citizens being held in foreign jails, especially when we know the mental and physical torment they are enduring just to survive each day in hope of positive news. In 2018, one of my constituents, Andy Tsege, was released from prison in Ethiopia and returned to his family in Islington, having spent many years with a sentence of death hanging over him.
It was wonderful to see Andy finally reunited with his wife and children, and I sincerely hope that we will soon see the same for Nazanin. In the meantime, all we can do is continue fighting and holding onto hope, knowing they are trying their best to do the same.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Attorney General