UPDATE: The petition to free Ghoncheh has reached over 700k signatures. Have you signed yet? If not, please click here and visit the Change.Org website and add your name to the hundreds and thousands already calling for Ghoncheh’s immediate release and return to Shepherds Bush.
In Parliament (06/11/14) Andy Slaughter MP raised the case of his constituent, Ghoncheh Ghavami, who has been imprisoned in Iran. Ms. Ghavami is a Shepherds Bush resident who holds a British-Iranian passport. In a special debate on Iran, Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter, said:
“I should like to use the opportunity of this debate to raise the case of my constituent, Ghoncheh Ghavami, who has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham). I think the case will be familiar to Members. A young woman-a British citizen-has been in prison in Tehran since the end of June for joining a group of women who wished to attend a volleyball match. I intend perhaps to be slightly less than forthright in speaking about this case because of its sensitivities. I will limit what I say to what is the public arena and to what I would like the Minister to respond to as regards the Foreign Office’s role.
As I say, I think the facts are relatively well known. Ms Ghavami was arrested on 20 June, released, and then rearrested 10 days later. She is charged with, and has now apparently been sentenced for, the offence of spreading propaganda against the system, but that arises out of the incident I described. She has been in solitary confinement. She has been on one hunger strike and is now on a second, more severe, hunger strike. There have been allegations of mistreatment against her during this period. She is a young woman of 25-a very bright law student with joint British-Iranian nationality who is resident, when she is the United Kingdom, in Shepherd’s Bush in my constituency with her brother. Her parents are resident in Tehran. A substantial amount of attention has been devoted to this case. The family, as one would expect, have acted in every possible way to try to secure her release, including lobbying the Iranian President in New York and lobbying and meeting members of the UK Government. Her family in Iran are doing the best they can. A petition calling for her release currently has more than 700,000 signatures.
I am not going to dwell too much on this aspect, but, for the record, I say to the Minister that I have not been impressed by the way in which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has dealt with the matter thus far. I think it uncharacteristic of the Minister to take three weeks to reply to a letter, to send that letter by post, and to say that because of the Data Protection Act he will not go into details without Ms Ghavami’s “express permission”. I am not quite sure how I was supposed to obtain Ms Ghavami’s express permission. However, during the course of this debate I have received a letter from the Foreign Secretary admitting that that was the wrong approach and saying that there will be full co-operation with my office, and with the family, from now on. I will therefore say no more about it. I welcome what the Foreign Secretary has said to me in that letter. I do not intend to go into the detail of it.
I think it appropriate that the House’s attention be drawn to this matter. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) has tabled an early-day motion on it. It is a serious matter, not just to me as a constituency issue, but in that a British citizen is being treated in this way abroad. These matters can be better dealt with. I welcome the fact that the Minister is prepared to meet me and the family-that would be the right way forward.
I conclude by putting it on the record that the family have been clear throughout that this is not a political issue but a humanitarian one. It should not be tied up with wider geopolitical negotiations between the two Governments. The only relevance of that is that the thaw in the relationship-the more constructive relationship-between the two Governments should perhaps provide the opportunity for the early release of Ms Ghavami so that she can return to her life in the UK.”
For more information on the issue and the petition click here to visit the Amnesty International page concerning Ghoncheh’s case