British-Iranian mother jailed in Iran denied consular aid, says MP

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed in April 2016 by Iran for attempting to stage a 'soft overthrow' of government

Ratcliffe has been imprisoned by the Iranian authorities since 2016 (AFP)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 19 July 2017 9:39 UTC
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A British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran for five years for trying to bring down the Iranian government has been denied help from the UK due to her dual citizenship, according to an MP. 

Tulip Siddiq, the local MP for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said the foreign office runs a "two-tier system" when it comes to helping British citizens who have dual-citizenship. 

The MP for Hampstead and Kilburn claimed that the FCO was prepared to help her three-year-old daughter, Gabriella, because she was a British citizen, and not her imprisoned constituent.  

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomas Reuters Foundation, was arrested by the Iranian authorities in April 2016. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the charges were a fabrication.

I had the strong impression their priority was making sure they got Gabriella back to the UK, rather than helping Nazanin

- Tulip Siddiq, MP

She now faces five years in prison after Iran's supreme court upheld her conviction in April this year. 

Siddiq told the Guardian newspaper that she left a meeting with former foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood last month feeling Zaghari-Ratcliffe was not a priority.

"I had the strong impression from the meeting that their priority was making sure they got Gabriella back to the UK, seeing as she is a full British citizen, rather than helping Nazanin," she said.

"That would take the pressure off them, given Nazanin is a dual citizen."

She also described how the foreign office guidance has meant that Britain operates a "two-tier system for citizenship when protecting British citizens abroad (with dual nationals".

'No access'

The foreign office denied the claims by Siddiq. A spokesman told Middle East Eye that it was refused access to Ratcliffe due to Iran's refusal to recognise her dual-citizenship. 

"Our ambassador has repeatedly requested access to her so we can be assured of her welfare. However, Iran does not recognise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s dual Iranian-British nationality. It considers her to be an Iranian citizen and refuses the UK access to her on that basis," a spokesperson said. 

"The prime minister and foreign secretary have both raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case with their counterparts in Iran. The minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, has spoken to the Iranian ambassador in London recently to express our continued concern.

"We have been supporting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family since we were first made aware of her arrest. Mr Burt has also met her husband this month to assure him that we will continue to do all we can for her.

“We continue to press the Iranians for access and for due process to be followed, and are ready to help get her daughter back safely to the UK if requested.”

Few visits from family

Ratcliffe, who is being held in Evin prison in Tehran, has been granted irregular access to her daughter.

Since Ratcliffe's arrest, her daughter has been in the custody of her grandparents. 

The foreign office told MEE that consular staff attended an April visit to Evin prison and used it as an opportunity to request access to dual national prisoners. 

British subjects with dual citizenship are not entitled to full consular support. On UK passports, it contains a warning that British nationals who are also "nationals of another country cannot be protected by Her Majesty's representatives against the authorities of that country".

Siddiq is due to speak on Ratcliffe's imprisonment and the plight of dual citizens imprisoned abroad later today in parliament.