Johnson should ‘take leading role’ against Iran says Bolton
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Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe, a 43-year-old mother of one and resident of Hampstead, is employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and has been jailed in Iran since 2016. She is currently serving her second five-year sentence.
Richard Ratcliffe, who has not seen his wife in over six years, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that stopping Nazanin coming home amounted to “hostage taking”.
Mr Ratcliffe mentioned he had been due to speak to Ms Truss on Sunday, making the her the fifth foreign minister to hear the case since the arrest took place.
Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond have all failed to secure the release of Nazanin.
Former Foreign Secetary Boris Johnson drew criticism after a gaffe in parliament, as he suggested Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran training journalists.
Mr johnson apologised for his words after the incident.
Mr Ratcliffe believes his wife is being held as a pawn over an unsettled debt of £400 million owed by the UK to Iran over the sale of military equipment in the 1970s.
“I said it needed carrot and stick – that, as I had told her predecessors, they needed to address the debt if Nazanin is going to come home, and that they needed to take steps to address Iran’s hostage diplomacy – to disincentivise Iran from continuing to do it.”
Mr Ratcliffe has said that he wants to see “firm” and “clear steps” taken against Iran because of the detention of his wife and other British nationals.
However, Iran has vehemently denied that Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe was being held ‘hostage’ over a financial debt.
Asked by reporters about comments from British officials about the continuation of legal talks on the release of Zaghari, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said: “Legal negotiations are not going on between the two countries.”
He emphasised that the Iranian Judiciary is the one that can comment on the issue.
“What is being discussed relates to issues about bilateral relations,” the spokesman added.
Mr Ratcliffe said: “One of the key problems I feel these past years is there’s been no cost for the Iranian side to carry on holding Nazanin, to carry on holding others, and so we’ve seen that now there are more British citizens in prison than there were when Nazanin was first taken.”
Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK, said: “The plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and other UK nationals held in Iran has extended across the last four foreign secretaries. It’s long past time that the UK finally brought this deeply distressing episode to an end.”
With Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe now serving a five-year term for offences including citing propaganda, steps have been taken to increase pressure on Iran to release the dual national.
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With Iran already under tough economic sanctions imposed by the USA, it seems a soft power option may be on the table when it comes to Nazanin.
A dossier naming the 10 Iranians who should be sanctioned is being sent to Truss by the Free Nazanin campaign and Redress, the legal advisers who have sought her release.
They say they will submit two further lists of Iranian officials in the months ahead, and that the list was compiled through talking to 25 families who have been subject to arrest, jailing and then being used as a negotiating lever.
Diplomatic negotiations could also be an option when Liz Truss meets her Iranian counterpart, Amir Hossein Abdollahian, at an upcoming UN meeting in New York.
This will be the first official bilateral meeting between Iran and the UK at ministerial level since 2018.
But for Nazanin’s husband Richard, this may not be enough. He said: “Iran conducts its diplomatic business through hostage-taking, in part because it is cost-free. British citizens will not be protected from hostage-taking by words and soundbites, but by actions that cause the perpetrators to reassess their calculations, and consider the personal costs – for their role in what is a serial organised crime.”
He added: “Diplomacy is not an abstract science; it has to be personal. This means the foreign secretary needs to be proactive when she engages with Iran this coming week, and she needs to be brave. Or there will be more hostages taken by Iran, and new copycat regimes.”
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