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Wed, 30 September 2020

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Government urged to use 'more stick' with Iran over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case

Government urged to use 'more stick' with Iran over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case

Richard Ratcliffe outside the Iranian Embassy in London (Credit: PA)

3 min read

The husband of imprisoned Brit Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said the government must use "more stick" in its dealings with Iran to secure her release.

The British-Iranian charity worker has been held in prison for more than four years, after being convicted on charges of spying after she was accused of running a journalism course that encouraged people to spread propaganda.

On Monday her husband Richard Ratcliffe said his wife's captivity was "complex".

But he urged the UK government to use take a tougher stance in a bid to help her return home - as the couple's MP told PoliticsHome the government had "completely failed to keep Nazanin from harm".

"These cases are complex and it is always negotiation, it's always a mixture of carrot and stick, but I think there has been far too little stick," Mr Zaghari-Ratcliffe told Times Radio.

He added: "I think there has been a reluctance to acknowledge these hostage cases, a reluctance to call them out and condemn the practice.

"A reluctance to criticise the level of abuse she has been through - it's not often someone gets physically beaten but the level of psychological torture people get put through is shocking.

"I think there has been a reluctance to honestly engage, partly because there are bigger issues like the nuclear deal that people are trying to maintain. But it's been collateral damage for four and a bit years." 

Earlier this year, Mr Ratcliffe met Boris Johnson to demand the PM stop "asking nicely" for his wife's release, after demands by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to end her "callous and cruel" imprisonment fell on deaf ears.

And Tulip Siddiq, the couple's local MP in north London, where they live with their young daughter, said ministers had far more to do to secure her release.

She told PoliticsHome: "Nazanin has been separated from her family for four excruciating years, leaving her daughter to spend much of her early childhood without her mother.

"This situation is heart-breaking, and Nazanin has had to go through it while being subjected to appalling conditions in Iran. 

"It is the job of the UK Government to stand up for British nationals, yet they have completely failed to keep Nazanin from harm or secure her freedom.

"Ministers need to do far more to prioritise Nazanin’s case and get her safely back to Hampstead and Kilburn where she belongs."

A Government spokesperson said: “We remain committed to securing the immediate and permanent release of all arbitrarily detained dual British nationals in Iran and regularly lobby for their release at the highest levels.

“The Foreign Secretary has raised the UK’s serious concerns about Iran’s practice of detaining foreign and dual nationals with Foreign Minister Zarif and the Prime Minister has raised the issue with President Rouhani.”

Ministers say they have "repeatedly pressed, and will continue to press" for exceptional consular access and appropriate medical care for dual national detainees abroad.

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