Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:12 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 1:12 pm, 17th July 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I not only congratulate my hon. Friend Tulip Siddiq on securing it, but join the Minister in applauding and thanking her on behalf of the whole House for the outstanding passion and persistence she has brought to the fight for Nazanin’s freedom—she is an outstanding Back Bencher.

For all of us who have taken part in this fight, and for all of us who visited Richard Ratcliffe during his recent hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy, the developments we have seen over the past 24 hours are deeply troubling. The fact that Nazanin is back under the control of the Revolutionary Guard, being held in isolation and denied access to consular staff and to her father, has rightly raised concern that she may be being pressed to sign a false confession.

We all know that the hard-line theocrats around Khamenei who have been responsible for Nazanin’s arrest and detention, and her appalling treatment in custody, do not care about the truth of Nazanin’s case, the reality of her innocence or the mental and physical cruelty that has been inflicted on her. They care only about exploiting her and lying about her to support their doctrine of embattlement and isolationism, and to undermine the Rouhani Government’s strategy of engagement. They are the same individuals who have revelled in the collapse of the Iranian nuclear deal, and who are wilfully risking conflict with their actions in the Strait of Hormuz. On a practical level, can the Minister tell us today what is being done to engage with the figures around Khamenei, not just the Rouhani Government, on Nazanin’s case?

Finally, on a wider level, does the Minister agree with the veteran BBC correspondent John Simpson, a man with better insight than most of us put together on matters of diplomacy and foreign policy, that there are two villains in this terrible situation? As John tweeted this morning, Nazanin is both

“the victim of a campaign by political extremists in Iran, and of the carelessness of @BorisJohnson as foreign secretary.”

Does the Minister agree with that verdict, and will he condemn the former Foreign Secretary—our next Prime Minister—for handing Iran’s hard-liners their biggest excuse, their biggest piece of propaganda, to justify this horrific injustice to one of our own citizens?