UK

Raab should 'pick a fight' with Iran over Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Image copyright Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Image caption Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016

The husband of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab should "pick a fight" with Iran to secure her release.

Richard Ratcliffe said Brexit issues could see bids for his wife's freedom left "on the shelf" and "forgotten".

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of spying, which she denies.

Mr Raab said he would "continue to do everything we can to free Nazanin".

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, Mr Ratcliffe 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?'

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had a meeting with Mr Ratcliffe

"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."

Gabriella, who has not been allowed to leave Iran following her mother's arrest, is currently living with her maternal grandparents.

Following the meeting, Mr Raab said on Twitter: "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 at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport in April 2016 and has always said the visit was to introduce her daughter to her relatives.

In November 2017, then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson faced criticism for suggesting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists while in Iran - remarks he later apologised for and clarified, saying he had no doubt she was on holiday there.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Ratcliffe outside the Iranian Embassy in London

Earlier this year, then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt granted her diplomatic protection in a bid to resolve her case.

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

In June, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike for 15 days to protest her detention.

Mr Ratcliffe joined her protest by refusing to eat while camped on the pavement outside the Iranian Embassy in London.

Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is a "prisoner of conscience" who was "jailed after a sham trial."

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Media captionWhy one mother's personal plight is part of a complicated history between Iran and the UK (video published August 2019)

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