British Government Accused of Putting Business Interest Above Protecting Its Citizens
November 21, 2016—Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei should put an immediate end to the practice of the Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence Organization, which operates under his direct authority, of arresting dual nationals and using them as hostages to collect ransom money and demonstrate political muscle, the International Campaign for Human Rights said today.
According to Richard Ratcliff, the husband of British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who has been in an Iranian prison since March 2016, his wife has been held by the Revolutionary Guards in order to extract payment by the British government for a decades-old arms deal.
“Holding innocent citizens in prison for payment of others’ debts is what the rest of the world calls hostage taking,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Campaign.
“The British government should take the lead, joined by the rest of the international community, in publicly and forcefully condemning this outrageous behavior and demanding Nazanin’s immediate release,” he added.
In a statement released on November 20, 2016, Richard Ratcliffe also expressed dismay that the British government “has never once criticised Iran’s treatment of Nazanin” and that “No British politician or official from the Foreign Office has ever publicly called for Nazanin’s release.” He alleged that the UK was putting business interests with Iran over concern for its own citizens.
“Unfortunately for us, the government has chosen not to respond. Set against the money, it has been happy to leave Nazanin and [our daughter] Gabriella detained in Iran now for 231 days,” said Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe also condemned Iran’s behavior: “The treatment of my wife brings the Iranian authorities shame – to use a mother and baby as business collateral in this way.”
“The Revolutionary Guards want the money, but they also want to show their political muscle,” said Ghaemi. “In the absence of Rouhani’s resolve to stand up to them, and with the support of the supreme leader, they are succeeding.”
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained by the authorities in Iran on April 3, 2016, when she was about to return to the UK after a holiday in Iran to visit family. She has been in prison ever since and was sentenced, in a trial egregiously lacking in due process, to a five-year sentence in September 2016.
In addition to the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Campaign calls for the immediate release of all the other dual nationals unjustly imprisoned in Iran. Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, arrested on October 15, 2015; his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi; Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old Iranian-British man held since May 2011; and Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini are among the dual nationals who are currently in Iran’s prisons without access to due process after being arrested by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization. Iranian-Canadian Homa Hoodfar was released from prison in Iran in September 2016.