It has been well over four 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 basic decency – and 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 a year. The toll this has taken on Nazanin and her family is hard to comprehend. I have been campaigning to protect Nazanin from mistreatment in Iran and get her back home to the UK and have met with Richard to discuss the campaign and reinforce my support for the family.
After all this trauma, Nazanin has now been told that she faces yet more trumped-up charges. This is completely unacceptable, and Labour has called for the UK Government to step up their diplomatic efforts to secure Nazanin’s release and, at the very least, demand access for UK officials to her trial.
It is hard not to see the link between Nazanin’s new trial and news about the postponement of the court hearing about a historic £400 million debt the UK owes to Iran that was due to be held at the same time as Nazanin’s court appearance in relation to the new charges.
UK Government Ministers have acknowledged that this debt is indeed owed to Iran, yet they have appeared to prevaricate at every stage. There is strong evidence to suggest that this debt is linked to Nazanin’s case, and her local MP, my Labour colleague Tulip Siddiq, has been pressing the Government to make sure that this dispute is resolved as quickly as possible.
Tulip Siddiq raised the issue on an urgent basis in the Commons to get a response from the UK Government. Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly stated that the Government are calling on Iran and actively working for the safe return on Nazanin, as an “absolute top priority.” He said they will continue to “firmly lobby” Iran, making the case for the permanent release of Nazanin and for all British dual nationals incarcerated in Iran.
Labour will continue to demand that the Government sticks to this promise. They must use every possible avenue to ensure that Nazanin is released. She cannot be used as a political pawn for a historic unpaid debt.
It has been three years since Anoosheh Ashoori was imprisoned in Iran. The UK Government must act and urge Iran to also reunite Mr Ashoori with his family. My shadow cabinet colleague, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy MP, has met with Mr Ashoor’s family and is doing everything she can to ensure that the Foreign Office delivers on its promises, so that Mr Ashoor is returned safely.
I will continue to do everything I can to fight for Nazanin and Anoosheh’s freedom alongside my Labour colleagues and to hold the UK Government to account for its failed approach to securing this.