Free Nazanin: PM raised 'unacceptable' case with Iranian president

Richard Ratcliffe with his and Nazanin's daughter Gabriella outside the Iranian Embassy

Richard Ratcliffe with his and Nazanin's daughter Gabriella outside the Iranian Embassy - Credit: Polly Hancock

Boris Johnson used a call with the Iranian President to demand Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, the PM is said to have raised the West Hampstead mum's “completely unacceptable” case – and those of other British nationals detained in Iran – with President Hassan Rouhani.

Downing Street said the two leaders spoke on Wednesday afternoon and the Prime Minister demanded her immediate release.

A No 10 spokesman said: “He said that while the removal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle monitor was welcome, her continued confinement remains completely unacceptable and she must be allowed to return to her family in the UK.”

Nazanin was released from house arrest and had her ankle tag removed at the weekend after a five-year prison term expired – but she still cannot leave the country and now faces another court hearing on Sunday in relation to a second case.

She was detained in 2016 as Iranian authorities made widely refuted spying allegations, and finished the latter part of her sentence under house arrest due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Husband Richard Ratcliffe, accompanied by the couple’s six-year-old daughter Gabriella, attended a vigil outside the Iranian embassy in Knightsbridge on Monday.

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Speaking this week, Richard said it will be difficult for his wife to see her family in Iran again once she can return to the UK.

“That is part of the hardship, perhaps in the early period of realising that actually when they took her into prison, they took away Iran from her forever,” he said.

“I don’t think she’s going around seeing everyone thinking ‘this is the last time I’ll see you’, but for some people it will be.”

Amnesty International UK said the British ambassador in Tehran should visit Nazanin before her  expected court hearing on Sunday to show “maximum solidarity” with her.

Kate Allen, director at Amnesty International UK, said: “Nazanin has already been convicted once after a deeply unfair trial before a Revolutionary Court, so of course we’re extremely concerned about this hearing.”

She said the Iranian authorities “systematically violate fair trial rights” and it was of the “utmost importance” that UK officials are granted permission to attend any court hearings.

Downing Street has previously said that officials have been denied access to legal proceedings because Iran does not recognise dual nationality.

During the call with President Rouhani, Boris Johnson also raised Iran’s breaches of its nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The No 10 spokesman said Mr Johnson “stressed that while the UK remains committed to making the Iran nuclear deal a success, Iran must stop all its nuclear activity that breaches the terms of the JCPOA and come back into compliance”.

“He stressed the importance of Iran seizing the opportunity presented by the United States’ willingness to return to the deal if Iran comes back into compliance.

“The prime minister underlined the need for Iran to cease wider destabilising activity and be a positive force in the Gulf region.”