18/12/2018 00:01 GMT

Husband Of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe To Lead Christmas Vigil For Brits Detained Abroad

The 40-year-old mum was jailed in 2016.

Families of British nationals jailed abroad, including the husband of imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, will gather outside Downing Street for a vigil for those unable to spend Christmas at home.

Richard Ratcliffe has spent the year lobbying unsuccessfully, despite the efforts of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and a brief temporary release during the summer, for his wife to be allowed to return to the UK.

The 40-year-old mother, from West Hampstead, has been sentenced to five years imprisonment for “plotting to topple the Iranian regime” and has been jailed in Tehran since 2016.

Supporters of the #FreeNazanin campaigns, along with family members and other campaigns for those held overseas, as well as those recently released, will hold an evening of carol singing outside Downing Street on Tuesday evening.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriela.

“Christmas is one of the hardest times of year for families of British prisoners overseas, but even harder for the prisoners themselves,” the group said.

“This Christmas the families come together to show solidarity. We ask supporters to join us in carol singing to mark this bittersweet year. We will hear encouraging words from those back with us, as well as tributes to those still absent.

“The fear is always of being forgotten in the Brexit bubble, that our loved ones might get left by the side. Our call on government is that it should not forget its day jobs. Protecting its people remains the most important one.”

As part of their third annual festive event, supporters will also hang messages of hope on a Christmas tree, which will later be delivered to the Foreign Office.

“We have been here before – last Christmas and the one before, singing in hope that Nazanin would be released. This year we are a bit more cautious with our Christmas hopes. But our Christmas wish remains the same. We continue to hope we are near the end.  And whenever she is home, then our Christmas comes,” Ratcliffe said.

The group will be joined this year by Daniela Tejada, the wife of British student Matthew Hedges, who was jailed for life for spying in the UAE last month before being granted a pardon and allowed to return home.

She said: “Having Matt back home safely and in time for the holidays, short from a wonderful present, is the Christmas miracle that I arduously battled for.

“These holidays, we invite people from every walk in life to join us as one big family in standing strong for victims of arbitrary detention abroad and remind them that no authoritarian regime in the world is stronger than us. Justice will be made and they too shall be free.”