Husband welcomes ‘fresh pair of eyes’ in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case

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Liz Truss brings a “fresh pair of eyes” to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her husband said, ahead of a meeting with the Foreign Secretary.

Richard Ratcliffe was meeting the Cabinet minister to discuss further strategy around attempts to free his wife from prison in Iran.

Mr Ratcliffe said he was “not optimistic” about progress being made but that it was “important not to prejudge” Ms Truss.

The meeting on Thursday lunchtime follows a hunger strike which Mr Ratcliffe has been staging outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) since Sunday.

Two tents have been pitched off Whitehall, with signs reading “Free Nazanin” along with flowers and a collection of small coloured rocks.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
Richard Ratcliffe on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in London (Steve Parsons/PA)

Mr Ratcliffe told the PA news agency: “Liz Truss is a person who has been kind and sincere on the telephone and I don’t have any critique of her or indeed her recent predecessors.

“Fair play to her, she’s arranged a meeting to talk it through so we’ll see what she says.

“I’m worried that what we get told is a version of the same thing, saying ‘Listen, we’re doing what we can and we’re trying hard and there’s things we can’t tell you, just be patient.’

“We’ll see if she says something different.

“She comes with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s not her fault we are an alienated family that has spent five years away from each other. She’s new in the job.”

He added: “I’m not optimistic, I wouldn’t be camping on the street if I was optimistic. But it’s important not to prejudge.”

Mr Ratcliffe has been joined by members of his family and his MP, Tulip Siddiq, who said she “desperately” hopes to find solutions to the situation.

The Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn raised the issue of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ongoing imprisonment in Iran with an urgent question in the House of Commons on Monday.

She said: “Today, Richard is on hunger strike on the Foreign Secretary’s doorstep in Westminster in Whitehall, pleading with her and the Prime Minister to do more to challenge Iran’s hostage-taking and to bring Nazanin home to be reunited with him and their daughter, Gabriella.

“Going on hunger strike is the absolute last resort for anyone, and Richard told me that he feels there is no other option left, because he feels our Government’s response to his wife’s case has been pitiful.”

Commenting on the meeting, Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK, said: “It’s encouraging that Liz Truss is taking the time to talk in person to Richard, but what we really want to see is the Foreign Secretary and her team setting out a convincing plan for how Nazanin and other arbitrarily-detained UK nationals are going to be brought home.

“There’s been a lot of talk, assurances and promises from ministers about Nazanin, but she’s on the verge of going back to jail and the Government doesn’t seem the slightest bit nearer to ending her terrible ordeal.

“The Government should explain why it still hasn’t granted diplomatic protection status to Anoosheh Ashoori, it should explain what exactly it’s doing to support Nazanin and her family, and most of all it should set out a clearly-articulated strategy for bringing Nazanin and other unjustly-detained British nationals back home from Iran.”

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