Labour MP for St Helens South and Whiston Marie Rimmer has today urged the UK Government to take a tougher stance on Iranian state hostage taking during a Westminster Hall debate she secured on British nationals detained overseas.
She said: “Iran has shown itself to be a serial offender of detaining British passport holders. Morad Tahbaz, a British-American citizen, is still detained there. It has now been over five years. It was only last month that Tahbaz was taken out of Evin pris on, the infamous home to many political prisoners of the autocratic regime, and placed under house arrest. Yet this occurred only after America agreed to a prisoner exchange and to allow the Iranian regime to access almost £5 billion of frozen assets in South Korea. In other words, the Iranian regime was using foreign prisoners for ransom. The situation with Nazanin was the same: she was released only after the Government paid £400 million to Tehran.
Mehran Raoof is another dual British-Iranian national who has been detained. At 66, he was detained in Evin prison for supporting and campaigning for workers’ rights. In his own letter, Mr Raoof says the Iranian regime is treating dual nationals as “a valuable commodity”, and the evidence backs him up.
The UK Government must look at the actions of Iran and label them for what they are: state hostage taking. Quite frankly, it is working. The Iranian regime is getting vast sums of money to release foreign or dual nationals whom they have arrested on trumped-up charges. The Foreign Office needs to take a much stronger stance within our role in the UN to call out state hostage taking.”
Marie’s comments echoed the recommendations of LFI’s pamphlet Iran A Darkening Picture at Home and Abroad which called for the UK to abandon its refusal to label British nationals and dual nationals – such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – detained by the regime as “state hostage taking” and using the UK’s position at the UN to take the lead in shaping a united international response.
You can read the full debate here.