Editor’s view: #Freenazanin: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is just a ‘human bargaining chip’ to Iran

The Ratclliffe family when Gabriella was just one week old. Picture: FAMILY

The Ratclliffe family when Gabriella was just one week old. Picture: FAMILY - Credit: Archant

The plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has dominated our headlines since I became editor of the Ham&High in 2016 and I am sickened still to be writing about it two years later.

Last month saw the second anniversary of the day Nazanin and daughter Gabriella, now three, were arrested by Iranian Revolutionary guards at Tehran Airport.

Instead of being closer to release, she is facing a new horrific blow: the prospect of being brought back into the Iranian court on new trumped up charges of spreading propaganda against Iran, which could see her five-year sentence increased for plotting against the state – charges she vehemently denies.

Since going public with her story, her husband Richard has tirelessly campaigned for her release and, at the Ham&High, her family’s local newspaper, we have kept Nazanin’s name on our pages.

Today I am reflecting on what we have achieved for her.

There is no doubt the constant campaigning has kept Nazanin’s name in national headlines and drummed up huge support for her. Her change.org petition has been signed by 1,620,000 people.

Nazanin’s case has been brought to the attention of the United Nations, which has called several times for her release, including in October 2016 and again in October 2017.

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There are even times when her freedom has seemed really close, such as last Christmas, when the Iranian judiciary database listed her as “eligible for early release”.

But each time there is hope, it seems a bungling politician gets in the way.

First there was Boris Johnson, who seemed to dash all hope by incorrectly stating in public that Nazanin was a journalist, which led Iranians to up their campaign against her.

Now there is Donald Trump. By pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the American president has thrown international relations with Iran into turmoil. It can be no coincidence that as Britain, France and Germany meet to discuss the deal in Brussels, Nazanin is threatened with a new court case.

The despicable reality is that Nazanin and her three-year-old daughter Gabriella are political pawns. They are being used by the Iranians as human bargaining chips. This is inhumane and cruel and our government must make sure it stops.