Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: British mother's court case postponed after Boris Johnson visit to Iran

Tom Peck
The Foreign Secretary met Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran on Sunday: AFP/Getty

A court case in which British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was expected to have her jail sentence in Iran extended has been postponed, campaigners said, following a visit to the country by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Mr Johnson spent the weekend in Tehran meeting the Iranian Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and other officials, with whom he raised the case of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but no agreement for her release was reached.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April of last year, when she was arrested during a family holiday. She was expected to appear in court today over charges of espionage, which could lengthen her jail sentence from five years to ten.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said: “Our family has no doubt that [the Foreign Secretary’s] presence and efforts to discuss Nazanin’s case with the Iranian authorities yesterday made a difference to what happened to Nazanin’s court case today. And we hope for what might happen in a near tomorrow.

“Nazanin’s court case was not held today in the wake of the Foreign Secretary’s visit. This is undoubtedly a good sign.

“The Foreign Secretary also met with Nazanin’s family last night to reassure them that Nazanin was a close concern, and that her case had been discussed in every meeting he held.

“I am expecting a fuller debrief from the Foreign Office on the Foreign Secretary’s efforts on Nazanin’s case once he returns from the region, either Monday or Tuesday.”

Mr Johnson said he had held “frank” discussions in Tehran on Saturday with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, which was described as a “constructive” meeting.

Ms Zaghhari-Ratcliffe has been charged with seeking to undermine the Iranian state. Tehran does not recognise Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s dual UK-Iranian nationality, and refuses her access to representatives of the British authorities.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran last April to show her 22-month-old daughter to her parents. She works for the charitable foundation connected to the news company Thomson Reuters, but is not a journalist.

Last month, Boris Johnson erroneously told a parliamentary committee Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran “training journalists”. Since then she has seen the possibility of a charge of espionage be added to her sentence, which could extend it by five years.

The couple’s daughter Gabriella is now living in Iran with her grandparents. In an interview with The Independent Mr Ratcliffe said she had lost what little amount of English she had spoken before her her mother was detained, and that he now communicates with her via an interpreter.

He said: “Gabriella is three, three and a half now. And at three and a half she still doesn’t understand what’s going on. And obviously she’s lost her English so my communication is through translation. So she’s happy to show me a drawing she’s done or show me her dollies.

“Her wider understanding: she understands that Nazanin is in prison. She thinks that daddy is in prison as well. She understands that other children have their mummies and daddies come to pick them up and she lives with her granny instead.

“So she knows that this is temporary, and that soon it’ll be over. But her sense of time as to when this will end, and her sense of time of going back to London, what that means – even what prison is; prison is just where she visits mummy – luckily she’s too young to understand lots of it.”