MEPs urge the Iranian government to release EU-Iranian prisoners

49 Members of the European Parliament from different political groups, have written a joint letter calling for the release EU citizens who hold an Iranian nationality and are currently being held in Iran.




The British-Iranian mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has been sentenced to five years in prison on unknown charges, while Swedish-Iranian Ahmadreza Djalali has been accused of espionage and could face the death penalty. French-Iranian citizen Nazak Afshar was released on bail, but still faces a travel ban, also for alleged espionage.

The letter from the MEPs, addressed to Sadeq Larijani, Head of the Judiciary in Iran, Minister of Justice Mostafa Pourmohammadi, and the head of Iran’s Council for human rights Mohammad Javad Larijani, calls on them to intervene to bring the three EU citizens home as a matter of urgency.

April 3rd 2017 marks the one year anniversary of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s arrest, amid a growing international campaign for her release led by her husband, Richard, with the support of Amnesty International. Members of the European Parliament will continue to raise the cases of EU-Iranian prisoners until they are returned safe and well to their families.

Julie Ward MEP said:

“One year on from Nazanin’s arrest, my colleagues and I pledge to continue our commitment to doing whatever we can to bring EU-Iranian citizens home to their families. The EU is an important platform for promoting and protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe and around the world, and British citizens have benefited enormously from our work in this respect. It is shameful that the UK government has done so little to secure Nazanin’s release, especially as she is the mother of a young British child. The EU is now developing an important relationship with Iran, and we would like to see human rights and the rule of law at the centre of this, including the release of these prisoners.”


Dear Mr. Sadeq Larijani, Head of the Judiciary, Dear Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Dear Head of Council for Human Rights Mr. Mohammad Javad Larijani,

We are writing to you as Members of the European Parliament, who are gravely concerned by the situation of dual EU-Iranian nationals being held prisoner in Iran on vaguely-worded charges, subject to unfair trials, as well as to inhumane conditions in prison, including the denial of medical care. In the context of the new emerging relationship of dialogue between Iran and Europe, we urge you to release all of these prisoners, and in the meantime, guarantee them improved conditions of detention.  

We would like to highlight to you the case of British-Iranian citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained since April 3, 2016. She was about to leave Iran to return to the UK after visiting her parents with her young daughter when she was arrested in Tehran. She spent a significant amount of time in solitary confinement and was not allowed access to a lawyer until three days before the start of her trial in August 2016. Her mental and physical health have suffered enormously in detention and she needs immediate admission to hospital for tests and treatment. In September 2016, following an unfair trial, she was sentenced to five years in prison for undisclosed charges.

Ahmadreza Djalali is an Iranian-born Swedish resident and an emergency disaster relief expert who was arrested on April 25, 2016, after being invited by the University of Tehran for workshops on his field of work. He was held in solitary confinement for three months and has said that he was subjected to intense interrogations and forced under great emotional and psychological pressure to sign statements. Despite repeated interrogations, he was not allowed to see a lawyer for seven months after his arrest. He went on hunger strike in December 2016 and his health has deteriorated since. In January 2017, he was taken before a Revolutionary Court in Tehran, without his lawyer present, where the presiding judge told him that he was accused of “espionage” and could face the death penalty. The authorities have also told him that they do not accept his choice of lawyer and that, unless he finds one they approve, they will choose one on his behalf.

Nazak Afshar is a French-Iranian citizen who was arrested on March 12, 2016 after earlier charges against her were dropped in 2009. In detention, she lost consciousness several times during long interrogation sessions. She was sentenced to six years in prison, and released in April 2016 after posting bail. She has since been placed on a travel ban and is subsequently unable to leave the country.

Since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was agreed between Iran and the E3+3, Europe and Iran have entered a new relationship, which both sides have worked to build. In October 2016, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on EU strategy towards Iran after the nuclear agreement, re-affirming the progress that has been made, and recognising the steps that the sides have taken towards each other. The report also recognised the situation of political prisoners and EU nationals detained in Iran.

Moving forward in this new relationship requires cooperation and joint work also in the field of human rights and the rule of law, which aim to ensure the safety and dignity of any human being around the world.

We therefore ask you to bring our citizens, Nazanin, Ahmadreza and Nazak, back to their families, release them and drop the charges against them. We hope you will see this request favourably.


Signed by Members of the European Parliament:

Soraya Post

Julie Ward

Renate Sommer

Merja Kyllönen

Molly Scott Cato

Jude Kirton-Darling

Izaskun Bilbao Barandica

Tania Gonzalez Penas

Daniel Dalton

David Martin

Anneliese Dodds

Ana Maria Gomes

Javier Nart

Fabio Massimo Castaldo

Ivan Štefanec

Brando Benifei

Jeppe Kofod

Bodil Valero

Ulrike Lunacek

Olle Ludvigsson

Marita Ulvskog

Jytte Guteland

Jens Nilsson

Anna Hedh

Lars Adaktusson

Bart Staes

Jean Lambert

Gunnar Hökmark

Andrew Lewer

Tunne Kelam

Barbara Lochbihler

José Inácio Faria

Alex Mayer

Mary Honeyball

Jill Evans

Theresa Griffin

Liliana Rodrigues

Fredrick Federley

Heinz K. Becker

Emma McClarkin

Ernest Urtasun

Arne Lietz

Marietje Schaake

Linda McAvan

Hilde Vautmans

Malin Björk

Derek Vaughan

Tiemo Wölken

Beatriz Becerra