The five-year-old daughter of jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has arrived back in the UK for the first time since her mother’s arrest. The family made the heart-breaking decision for little Gabriella to leave Iran and join her father in London to start school. She had been her mother’s lifeline to the outside world as she remains in jail accused of spying. Nazanin’s husband Richard said: ‘Gabriella came back to us late at night, a bit uncertain seeing those she only remembered from the phone. ‘It has been a long journey to have her home, with bumps right until the end. ‘It was a hard goodbye for Nazanin and all her family. But let us hope this homecoming unlocks another.
Nazanin had taken Gabriella to see her family in Tehran when she was arrested at the airport in April 2016. The mum was sentenced to five years in jail on accusations she was trying to topple the Iranian government – something she denies. Gabriella had stayed with her grandparents in Iran and visited her mother in the notorious Evin Prison when the authorities would allow it. Her parents then made the painful decision for her to return to the UK so she can start school. Nazanin wrote an open letter from jail, saying: ‘My baby will leave me to go to her father and start school in the UK. ‘It will be a daunting trip for her travelling, and for me left behind
There have been a number of foreigners detained in Iran in what critics say is ‘hostage diplomacy.’ Conditions in the jail are appalling and all attempts at diplomacy between the UK government and Tehran have so far failed. The family’s local MP, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, has taken up the cause. She said: ‘It is heart-warming to see Gabriella reunited with her father after 1,300 days in Iran, but heart-breaking that she is separated from her mother Nazanin. ‘Nazanin is at breaking point, and today is yet another reminder that she has been failed at the very highest levels of government.’
Ms Siddiq urged the UK Government to do ‘everything it possibly can’ to bring Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe home. Last week, a British-Australian blogger and her boyfriend were released from jail in Iran after they were detained while travelling through the country. Jolie King and her Australian boyfriend Mark Firkin are believed to have been released as part of a prisoner swap. British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert is also in jail in Tehran and believed to be in solitary confinement. The Australian government has taken the lead in those cases. British Foreign Office minister, Andrew Murrison, previously said the UK will continue to raise the case at the highest level with Iran and will ‘lobby hard’ to gain access to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. He added Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has dual nationality and Iran does not accept she also has British nationality – which is why the case is different to that of other detained foreign nationals.