Brexit Party MEPs abstain on EU vote that demands release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

PUBLISHED: 10:52 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 10:52 20 September 2019

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left middle row, and other parliament members. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, left middle row, and other parliament members. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

Brexit Party MEPs have sparked outrage on social media for abstaining on a European parliament motion that called on Iran to release imprisoned European citizens including Brit Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

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Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of detained Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, outside the Iranian Embassy in Knightsbridge, London. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA.Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of detained Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, outside the Iranian Embassy in Knightsbridge, London. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA.

The motion called on Iranian authorities to release "immediately and unconditionally all of those campaigners jailed as political prisoners.

The resolution named Zaghari-Ratcliffe as well as Ahmadreza Djalali and Kamran Ghaderi, also EU citizens, held in Iran.

The resolution was passed by 608 votes with seven MEPs rejecting the proposal.

There were 46 abstentions - with the majority coming from the 29 Brexit Party MEPs.

Labour MP David Lammy said that it showed the Brexit Party were not the "patriots" they claimed to be.

He tweeted: "You call yourself patriots but you will not stand up for Brits imprisoned abroad. Shame on you."

Luisa Porritt, Ratcliffe's local MEP, spoke in favour of the motion and demanded more action to be taken.

She said: "In prison, Nataznin has often been deprived of proper medical assistance. She is no longer allowed international phone calls, and can only see her five-year-old daughter, Gabriella, once a month. This treatment is tantmamount to state hostage taking.

"Her husband Richard has pointed out that the dominance of Brexit means her case has fallen off the UK government's agenda."

She tweeted: "Yesterday, the Brexit Party MEPs shamefully abstained on a motion calling for Nazanin's release. Nigel Farage wasn't even there for the vote. These charlatans have proven once again that they have zero interest in standing up for their constituents."

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Will Black wrote: "Wonder what it is that the Brexit Party doesn't like about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. It's a real mystery."

James Melville said: "Brexit Party MEPs can't be bothered to stand up for oppressed British citizens."

David Schneider tweeted: "Well at least now we know the Brexit Party has 2 policies: 1. Brexit 2. Leave innocent British citizens to rot in foreign jails."

But Belinda de Lucy. one of the party's MEPs, stood up in the European parliament to speak against the motion.

She said: "As Iran grows bolder with its provocations, it appears the EU's deal with Iran is failing in its objectives. Even its most important signatory, the United States, has pulled out.

"British citizens are the subject of kidnapping, solitary confinement and barbarity. Our citizens have become pawns in this geo-political game and yet the EU remains the biggest global champion of the Iran nuclear deal, with cynical commercial undertones.

"While the EU rightly speaks about the human rights atrocities, what does speaking do? Sanctions not words are needed or Iran will be emboldened further."

In a statement the Brexit Party said the proposals were "counter productive".

"It should go without saying that the Brexit Party bows to no one in wanting to see Nazarin and the others released from incarceration in Iran. In the debate both Belinda de Lucy and Matthew Patten MEPs made that absolutely clear.

"However we abstained on the vote.

"The resolution was not just about Nazarin and in this and many other foreign policy issues, we believe that the EU is partly responsible for the problem.

"The resolution called for the EU to take the lead on this and other issues, something that we believe to be ineffectual and counter productive."

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