Emma Thompson accuses Boris Johnson of doing “sweet FA” to help British woman jailed in Iran

Posted by
Moya Crockett
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

At a rally on Saturday, the actress accused the home secretary of not doing enough to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. 

Emma Thompson has called on Boris Johnson to do more to help a British-Iranian woman currently jailed in Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran in April 2016 and later convicted for spying, a charge she denies. The foreign secretary came in for fierce criticism earlier this month after he mistakenly described the London mother-of-one as a journalism teacher, a blunder seized on by the Iranian government as evidence that she was “spreading propaganda against the regime”.

Thompson joined the Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, her MP Tulip Siddiq, and a large group of supporters at a rally in north London on Saturday. The foreign secretary should “get on a plane” and do more to help Zaghari-Ratcliffe, she said.

“We are a net of compassion and love for Nazanin and her family,” Thompson said, according to the Evening Standard.

“This is what we human beings do best, in stark contrast to the bunch of angry molecules bumping around in Westminster.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, right, with her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella. Gabriella is currently being cared for by Nazanin’s parents in Iran

Thompson lives in Hampstead, not far from where Zaghari-Ratcliffe lived with her husband Richard and baby daughter Gabriella. The Oscar-winning actress, who was suffering from pneumonia at the rally, said that Johnson had not properly used his platform as foreign secretary to try and secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.

“If I can get out of bed with pneumonia to support a horribly abused member of our community then our foreign secretary can get on a plane and go to Iran and deal with the problem he’s so seriously exacerbated,” she said.

Speaking to LBC, Thompson said that Johnson has so far done “sweet FA” to help Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and repeated her plea for him to go on a diplomatic mission to Iran.

“Get on a bloody plane and get on with it… Do your job,” she said.

Speaking to supporters over the phone during Saturday’s rally, Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she was “so grateful for everybody’s support and love”.

“I am so overwhelmed and moved,” she said. “All that is on my mind is to be back home and to be back with my family.”

Emma Thompson with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for a media charity at the time of her arrest in Tehran, and has insisted she was visiting Iran so that her parents could meet her then 19-month-old daughter.

However, the Iranian authorities believe that she was in the country to orchestrate a “soft overthrow” of the regime. Journalism is a dangerous profession in Iran: news reports are often vetted and censored by the government, and people who work for “enemy” (i.e. Western) media organisations are treated with particular suspicion.

According to press freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres, journalists and their family members are often hauled in front of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence to defend themselves against accusations of conspiring against the government.

As a result, Johnson’s erroneous claim that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “simply teaching people journalism” in Iran was a dangerous mistake to make. His statement has since been cited by Iranian media as confirmation that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was on a mission to topple the government.

It is believed that she could now face an additional five years in prison, on top of her original jail sentence. 

A photo of the Zaghari-Ratcliffe family at the #FreeNazanin rally in London on Saturday 

Since his original statement caused international uproar, Johnson has apologised to Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family for any “distress and suffering” he caused.

He also met face-to-face with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, for the first time. After their meeting, Ratcliffe expressed his hope that Johnson would help secure his wife’s release by Christmas.

At the rally on Saturday, Ratcliffe thanked supporters for taking to the streets.

“It is profoundly moving to see so many people here,” he said. “I can really feel the love, and Nazanin can feel the love, and in the end that’s the most important thing, that’s what keeps us going.”

Images: Rex Features,