Andrew Murrison – 2019 Statement on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Below is the text of the statement made by Andrew Murrison, the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, in the House of Commons on 7 October 2019.

May I start by congratulating the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) on her urgent question and thanking her for the passion and persistence she has brought to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case? Her constituent can be sure that she and her family have been well served by the hon. Lady as a constituency MP.

In recent weeks, we have seen further cases of unwarranted detention of foreign nationals in Iran. These cases are completely devastating for the individuals concerned and deeply and profoundly upsetting for their families. We are of course delighted to hear that Jolie King, a British-Australian national, has been released from detention in Iran. That is good news, but it invites us to think about others who are detained in Tehran.

Equating the cases of foreign nationals in detention in Iran and cases of British-Iranian dual nationals is unlikely to be helpful, as Iran perceives the two to be quite distinct, and it is Iran with which we have to deal. We want to do everything we can to resolve Nazanin’s case. We also want to see the resolution of the cases of other British-Iranians detained in Iran. The trouble is that the Iranian authorities do not recognise dual nationality; they consider Nazanin simply to be an Iranian national. Consequently, they do not grant us consular access; nor do they give us sight of legal process or changes, despite all of our efforts.

The House will be fully aware of the lengthy chronology of representations made at ministerial level on this issue. On 11 September, the Foreign Secretary again raised his serious concerns with the Iranian ambassador to London about Iran’s practice of detaining foreign and dual nationals. The Prime Minister raised his concerns with President Rouhani on 24 September, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did the same with Foreign Minister Zarif on 17 September. My colleague Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon hosted an event at the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September to bring attention to these incredibly important issues, as I did in Tehran earlier this year. I can assure the House that our efforts to raise the plight of those detained with the Iranian authorities at ministerial and ambassadorial level will continue.

It is a matter of deep regret that a country such as Iran, with such a rich and proud history, is failing to uphold its basic international obligations. That this sophisticated and cultured country is arresting individuals on unclear charges, failing to afford them due process and, in some cases, committing acts of torture and mistreatment on not only dual nationals, but its own citizens is deeply disappointing, to put it mildly. Dealing specifically with dual nationals, we are absolutely clear that Iran’s behaviour is beyond unacceptable. The treatment of our dual nationals, including Nazanin, is unlawful ​and unacceptable, and it must end. Be in no doubt: this matter remains a top priority for the UK Government. We will continue to lobby at all levels for Nazanin’s unconditional release, so that she can return to her patient, long-suffering family in the UK.