British mother held in Iran thanks marchers campaigning for her release

A British mother jailed in Iran has spoken from prison in Tehran to thank those campaigning for her release.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe addressed those attending a rally and march, including actress Emma Thompson, through a phone and loudspeaker to thank everyone for their support.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned in Tehran since April 2016, when she was arrested at the city's airport after a holiday with her then 22-month-old daughter Gabriella.

She told the rally near her home in north London: "I'm so grateful for everybody's support and love... I am so overwhelmed and moved.

"All that is on my mind is to be back home and to be back with my family."

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in jail on charges of spying and seeking to overthrow the Tehran regime, and has been held in solitary confinement.

Her family has led a long-running campaign for her release, saying she is innocent and raising fears for her physical and mental health.

At the protest a tearful Thompson hit out at the "bunch of angry molecules bumping around in Westminster" and urged the Government to do more to bring her home.

The Love Actually actress, who was suffering from pneumonia, called on Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to "get on a plane", after his suggestion earlier this month that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran exposed her to the threat of her five-year sentence being doubled.

The Oscar-winning actress said: "We are a net of compassion and love for Nazanin and her family. This is what we human beings do best, in stark contrast to the bunch of angry molecules bumping around in Westminster.

"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."

Thompson added: "The screw is twisting more and more and her physical and mental health is deteriorating to such a degree now that I think we are in a very urgent situation.

"I can't imagine the effect of being separated for 19 months from your child. I would have gone bonkers if that had happened to me.

"I'm just so passionate about getting her back, it's a sort of physical feeling of anguish for her."

Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq spoke to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and later said: "We discussed how we would take both our daughters to Peppa Pig World when she's released."

Mrs Zaghari-Racliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said: "It is profoundly moving to see so many people here.

"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."

The rally took place before a march to the Shia Islamic Centre of England in Maida Vale, north-west London, to hand in a "Mothers' Open Letter" asking for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release from the Tehran prison.

An online petition calling for her to be returned to Britain has had more than 1.3 million signatures.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's director, said: "Once again, it's inspiring to see so many people supporting Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family this way.

"She's been put through a deeply unfair trial and could be facing a fresh charge, so it's extremely important that the recent political focus on Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case now translates into the Iranian authorities finally releasing her."

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