UK

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Husband to meet Boris Johnson for talks

Richard Ratcliffe, with his five-year-old daughter Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Ratcliffe, with five-year-old daughter Gabriella, who last year started school in the UK

Boris Johnson will meet the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe later, the British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran, to discuss efforts to bring her home.

Richard Ratcliffe said he wanted to hold Mr Johnson to a promise he made in 2017 to “leave no stone unturned” to secure her release.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained for almost four years over spying allegations she denies.

Her five-year-old daughter will also be at the meeting in No 10 on Thursday.

Mr Ratcliffe last met Mr Johnson when he was foreign secretary in 2017.

That meeting came shortly after Mr Johnson had to apologise after wrongly suggesting that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists at the time of her arrest.

During Thursday’s meeting, Mr Ratcliffe said he hopes to receive a credible sense from Mr Johnson that his wife’s case is a priority for him.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Johnson met Mr Ratcliffe at the Foreign Office in November 2017
Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Before her arrest Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe lived in London with accountant Mr Ratcliffe

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said the meeting with Mr Johnson was a “welcome step”.

She added: “Given recent deeply unsettling events in Iran, it’s now all the more important that Boris Johnson provides proper reassurances to the family that real and concerted efforts are being made at the highest levels to secure Nazanin’s release.”

Court case

The meeting comes as the Court of Appeal in London prepares to hear a case that can resolve a decade-long financial dispute between the UK and Iran.

The dispute is over the interest due on a debt owed by Britain to Tehran for an arms deal in the 1970s that was never fulfilled.

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife is a chess piece in the dispute, which he calls a festering sore in relations between the two countries – and he plans to ask Mr Johnson how he will solve it.

He has previously raised concerns that the recent escalation in tensions between the US and Iran – sparked by the US killing of top military leader Qasem Soleimani – could make matters worse for his wife.

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Media captionThe death of Iran’s top general could make things worse for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, husband fears.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, remains on medication for depression and on beta blockers – medicines which slow down the heart – for the panic attacks she’s been suffering in jail, her husband said.

The dual national has been detained since 2016, when she took her British-born daughter Gabriella to Iran to celebrate the country’s new year and visit her parents. She was sentenced to five years in prison for spying.

Her family and the UK government has always maintained her innocence and she has been given diplomatic protection by the Foreign Office – meaning the case is treated as a formal, legal dispute between Britain and Iran.

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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)

While he was foreign secretary, Mr Johnson mistakenly said that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran training journalists when she was arrested.

Four days later Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned to an unscheduled court hearing during which Mr Johnson’s comments were cited as proof she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

Mr Ratcliffe previously said: “We’ve been quite clear in public that I feel he owes us and that he needs to do what he can to bring Nazanin home and to bring [home] the others held over similar reasons.”

He added: “As we’re on the precipice of very dark times, it can only help that positive gestures are made.”

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Media captionNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband describes how his daughter Gabriella is coping without her mother

On Tuesday, Mr Ratcliffe met the UK’s ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, who was himself arrested in Tehran – an arrest which Britain has condemned as illegal.

Mr Macaire was briefly held after attending an event advertised as a vigil for the 176 people who died in the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 earlier this month.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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