Ijo Pona is the Harrogate adventure blog written by a Funny Little Man. Andy is a freelance web designer in Harrogate and he is also a well-received sound artist and runs a mastering studio in Yorkshire. The Wire Magazine once described him as "... difficult to dislike." Still at my most enthusiastic and naive.
Funny Little Man – Harrogate
I have the good fortune to be a member of Amnesty and Liberty. They are both Human Right’s Groups who campaign for mankind’s betterment — I figure all I have to do is click a few buttons to express my point of view — how different that could be if I was just born in another country.
So, when Amnesty UK emailed me asking for support I jumped at the opportunity — I have emailed another letter to Andrew Jones — Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough.
I admit that most of the following is copied and posted from Amnesty’s web site — but the more people who hear about it the better. Strength in numbers … right? To petition your own MP to attend the debate please click here.
Nazanin had been visiting family in Iran with her daughter Gabriella, and was about to board a flight back to London from a Tehran airport when she was arrested by officials believed to belong to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Her toddler daughter was handed to her grandparents who had accompanied them to the airport, while Nazanin was taken away.
Following arrest, Nazanin was subjected to 45 days in solitary confinement. Her family had no idea where she was, and it wasn’t until a month later that she was allowed to see them; or to be granted access to a lawyer. Any contact with her family in Iran and the UK is now limited and controlled.
Gabriella, now three, has had no choice but to remain in Iran with her grandparents. She gets to see her mum just twice a week and only gets to speak to her dad, Richard Ratcliffe by Skype. Richard has campaigned tirelessly for his wife’s freedom from their home in the UK.
Nazanin was arrested on vague charges, held in solitary confinement for months, and — following an unfair trial — was sentenced to five years in prison for ‘membership of an illegal group’.
The charge was in connection to her work at the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), a charity organisation promoting socio-economic progress, independent journalism and the rule of law, and her past work at BBC’s Media Action.
We therefore consider Nazanin a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association: she must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Prison is taking its toll on Nazanin. She suffers from severe arm, neck and back pain and needs urgent specialised medical care in hospital. In recent months, she has had very limited movement in her arms. The specialist who requested her hospitalisation warned that there is a risk that her right arm and hand will be permanently damaged if she doesn’t get the medical care she needs.
Nazanin is in no way the only dual national in prison in Iran. Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old British-Iranian man, is also imprisoned in Iran serving a seven-year prison sentence in Evin prison, Tehran, for alleged espionage, with no evidence or explanation ever provided. He was arrested in May 2011 by men in plain clothes who did not show an arrest warrant or explain the reasons for his arrest. He was kept in solitary confinement for 18 months before being convicted in an unfair trial.
Like Nazanin, Kamal is separated from his family — he hasn’t seen his daughter, son or two granddaughters for six years. He has not had any outside visitor for over 2,000 days and he’s not allowed to write or receive letters.
Also, like Nazanin, he has not been provided with much needed specialist medical care. Despite needing an operation to remove cataracts in both eyes and screening for prostate cancer, Kamal has repeatedly been denied leave on medical grounds. Read more about Kamal’s case on the next tab.
Although Prime Minister, Theresa May and other Ministers have raised concerns about Nazanin and Kamal with the Iranian government, and have called for Kamal to be released on humanitarian and medical grounds, it is deeply concerning that they have yet to call for Nazanin’s release.
It is time for the UK government to up the pressure and publicly call for both Nazanin and Kamal to be released from prison and brought back home to the UK.
Dear Andrew Jones MP,
As you may be aware, there will be a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, 18 July at 4.30 pm — 5.30 pm in the House of Commons on British prisoners in Iran. This is a real opportunity to show the government how much support there is in Parliament for the release of two British-Iranian dual nationals, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi. I know you will have a busy Parliamentary schedule, but I am writing to ask you if you could please attend the debate and join the call and ask the UK government to press for their release.
Nazanin was arrested in April 2016, when she was attempting to board a flight home to the UK after visiting her parents in Iran with her then 1-year-old daughter Gabriella. She is currently serving a five-year prison sentence after she was convicted of “membership of an illegal group” in connection with her work at the charity, Thomas Reuters Foundation, and her past work at BBC Media Action. Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression and association through her professional work and must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Kamal is a 77-year-old British-Iranian man serving a seven-year prison sentence in Iran, for alleged ‘espionage’, with no evidence or explanation ever provided. He was arrested in May 2011 and was kept in solitary confinement for 18 months before being convicted in an unfair trial. Under Article 58 of Iran’s Islamic penal code, which allows for the conditional release of prisoners after serving one third of their sentence, Kamal is eligible for release and has been since January 2014. The Iranian authorities must apply this provision without discrimination.
Thank you for your support.