PM urged to act as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces 2,000th day of detention

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Boris Johnson has been urged to “rethink” his approach to Iran in order to help secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Thursday marks 2,000 days since Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained, and her MP Tulip Siddiq, along with more than 175 other parliamentarians, accused the Government of complacency in its response to Tehran.

The MPs and peers urged the Prime Minister to call the detention of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals hostage-taking, and also resolve a long-standing legal row with Iran over a £400 million debt linked to a 1970s arms deal.

Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin’s husband, said: “After 2,000 days of disappointments and let-downs, I do sometimes wonder what will get the Government to bring Nazanin and the others home?

“What will end the years of drift, or get the Prime Minister to deliver on his word?”

Richard Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

He said the signatories to the letter had called for the Government to “get tough with Iran’s hostage-taking, and grow a backbone in how it protects British citizens held overseas”.

The increased pressure on the Government comes as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met her Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, at the United Nations on Wednesday.

Following the meeting a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development spokesperson said: “The Foreign Secretary held her first meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to discuss bilateral, nuclear and regional issues. She called for the release and return home of British dual national detainees.

“She urged Iran to return rapidly to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) negotiations in Vienna with a view to all sides coming back into compliance and reducing tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme.”

In a letter to the Prime Minister, to be delivered to No 10 on Thursday, the MPs and peers said: “The refusal to acknowledge this as hostage-taking, or to impose any cost on Iran for the hostage-taking of British citizens, enables the practice to continue.”

The parliamentarians accused the Government of failing to resolve the debt dispute with Tehran, arguing “it is shameful that the sins of the British Government should be allowed to sit for so long on the shoulders of ordinary, innocent citizens and their families”.

The letter will be delivered by Mr Ratcliffe and his daughter Gabriella, along with their MP, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq.

Fellow Labour MP Janet Daby and Elika Ashoori, daughter of fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori, will also be in Downing Street.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with his daughter Gabriella (Ian West/PA)

Ms Siddiq said: “The time for excuses is over. This cross-party letter sends a direct message to the Prime Minister that a new approach is needed if we are going to free Nazanin and end this barbaric hostage-taking.”

Mr Ratcliffe will stand on a giant snakes and ladders board in Westminster on Thursday to symbolise the feeling of being “caught in a game between two governments”, Amnesty International, which is supporting his campaign, said.

Amnesty International’s UK chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said: “People’s lives shouldn’t be treated like a game by governments – it’s excruciating to see how Nazanin and her family are being made to suffer like this.

“We’re hoping Liz Truss will make the job of securing Nazanin’s release a major priority as Foreign Secretary.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of several people with British or dual-British nationality detained in Iran.

She was held in Tehran in 2016 on national security charges while taking her daughter Gabriella to see her family.

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