It is “indefensible and unacceptable” that Iran has rejected Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s appeal against the new charges made against her, Middle East minister James Cleverly has said.

He told MPs in the Commons: “We continue to call on Iran to let her return home to the UK immediately.”

His comments came as Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, whose sister Rebecca is a GP in Cwmbran, went on hunger strike for the second time over the Government’s “pitiful” response to his wife’s case.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) said it was her eighth urgent question on Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe after being detained for “five harrowing years in Iran on false charges”.

Ms Siddiq said: “Today Richard (Ratcliffe) is on hunger strike on the Foreign Secretary’s doorstep in Whitehall pleading with her and the Prime Minister to do more to challenge Iran’s hostage-taking and to bring Nazanin home.

“Going on hunger strike is the absolute last resort for anyone and Richard told me that he feels that there’s no other option left because he feels our Government’s response to his wife’s case has been pitiful.”

Mr Ratcliffe, she said, “has come today to the gallery to listen to this urgent question”.

She asked: “Will the minister acknowledge that Nazanin is a hostage of the Iranian state, secondly will the Government bring forward Magnitsky sanctions on those involved in this hostage taking and challenge Iran on it in the courts?

“Will the Government finally fulfil the promise of resolving the £400 million debt that we as a country owe Iran and will he work to secure a commitment to end hostage-taking in negotiations around the Iran nuclear deal?”

Responding, Mr Cleverly said: “I can assure this House that the safety and welfare of all British dual nationals detained in Iran remains the top priority for the UK Government and we will continue to raise our concerns with our Iranian interlocutors at every level, and we will not stop until those who have been detained unjustly are at home with their loved ones.”

He added: “Iran must release British dual nationals who have been arbitrarily detained so that they can return home. The Foreign Secretary spoke with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe on October 16 and 17 respectively.

“The UK Government from the Prime Minister down remains fully committed to doing everything we can to help them return home.

“We continue to raise their cases at the most senior levels and discuss them at every opportunity with our Iranian counterparts.”

He added: “I can assure her that the UK continues to have this as one of our top priorities and is the focus of all the conversations that we have with Iran. She will understand that there are already a range of sanctions imposed against both individuals and entities in Iran from the UK and from international bodies.

“Of course, the Iranian regime would love to connect the cases of these British dual nationals with the IMS debt. We regard it as unhelpful to reinforce that link. We make the point very, very clearly that British dual nationals must not be used as a means of diplomatic leverage.

“Therefore, we continue to call on Iran to do the right thing, to release all the British dual nationals in incarceration and allow them to come home to their families and loved ones.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, has been in custody in the country since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

She was taking her daughter Gabriella to see her family when she was arrested and was sentenced to five years in prison shortly afterwards, spending four years in Evin Prison and one under house arrest.

According to her family, she was told by Iranian authorities that she was being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.

Source » southwalesargus