Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband urges Raab to ‘pick a fight’ with Iran

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab should “pick a fight” to secure the release of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as the tumultuous UK political climate risks leaving her plight “forgotten”, her husband has said.

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife was in “varying levels of despair” about how Brexit issues could see bids for her freedom sidelined “on the shelf”.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in Iran in 2016 on spying charges which she vehemently denies, has endured hunger strikes and solitary confinement while serving her five-year sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran (Handout/PA)

The 40-year-old has also been separated from her five-year-old daughter Gabriella, who has not been allowed to leave Iran following her mother’s arrest and is living with her grandparents.

Mr Ratcliffe, who met Mr Raab on Monday, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The situation is getting worse and the Government is dealing with Brexit over here, but this is an issue that shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Asked whether he was stepping up lobbying efforts, he said: “That’s exactly what we were pitching.

“We were saying there is a tendency for the Foreign Office to want to de-escalate and calm things down, and I am saying, ‘I want you to pick a fight’.

“An election is very close, everything is up in the air and it feels like in politics most issues are struggling to get airtime.

“She (Nazanin) is in varying levels of despair. She is looking at it and thinking, ‘gosh, with all these other things going on will we be left on the shelf?’.

“We’ve had the restriction of phone calls and visiting rights, and not being able to see Gabriella, our daughter who has just turned five, hit the hardest.

“I don’t think we have much time until something happens again.”

Valuable meeting with Richard Ratcliffe and his parents to discuss the latest developments in Nazanin’s case. We will continue to do everything we can to free Nazanin and reunite the family #FreeNazaninpic.twitter.com/4GP9XjZePC

— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) September 2, 2019

Mr Raab said on Twitter on Monday: “Valuable meeting with Richard Ratcliffe and his parents to discuss the latest developments in Nazanin’s case.

“We will continue to do everything we can to free Nazanin and reunite the family #FreeNazanin”.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on April 3 2016 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport as she prepared to board a plane with Gabriella back to the UK after visiting relatives.

Then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt granted her diplomatic protection in March, but Tehran refuses to acknowledge her dual nationality.

In a much-criticised error, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in 2017 that she was in Iran “teaching people journalism” – despite her family’s insistence she was there to visit relatives.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly said the responsibility for her continued detention lies with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has been described as a “prisoner of conscience” who was “jailed after a sham trial”, by Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen.

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