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Brexit Party MEPs abstain from vote calling for release of detained British citizen in Iran

Harry Cockburn
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said his wife had been chained to a bed in solitary confinement: EPA

Brexit Party MEPs abstained from voting on a European Parliament resolution on Thursday which called on Iran to release imprisoned EU-Iranian nationals, including British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The resolution called on Iranian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release all dual-nationals and human rights campaigners jailed as political prisoners.

As well as naming Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran since April 2016, the resolution also named EU citizens Ahmadreza Djalali and Kamran Ghaderi, who are also being held in Iran.

Despite the Brexit Party’s abstention, the resolution was passed by 608 votes. Seven opposed and 46 abstained.

The Brexit Party has 29 MEPs.

Brexit Party spokesman Gawain Towler told The Independent: “It would be incompatible with what we believe, to assume that the EU is the right place or the most effective tool with which to put pressure on the Iranian government.

“And we could not in all honesty and in all decency say the EU is the best forum for that, so we abstained.

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He added: “If one was to vote in favour, [people would say] ‘ooh the Brexit Party wants the EU to do this, that and the other.’

“So we abstained.”

Anne Widecombe, Annunziata Rees-Mogg, Matthew Patten, Ben Habib, Martin Daubney and Belinda de Lucy were all among the Brexit Party MEPs who abstained.

Labour MP David Lammy tweeted about the Brexit Party’s decision to abstain on the vote.

He said: “You call yourself patriots but you will not stand up for Brits imprisoned abroad. Shame on you.”

Ms de Lucy spoke in the European Parliament ahead of the vote.

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.”