Foreign secretary calls for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be released

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since 2016. Picture: Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliff

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will tell her Iranian counterpart to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The newly-appointed Foreign Secretary will fight to bring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe home, following pressure from campaigners.

Liz Truss is expected to tell her Iranian counterpart that the UK is “not going to drop” the fight to get British dual nationals being held by the state home, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said on Monday (September 20).

Ms Truss is due to meet the Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the United Nations General Assembly in New York today, where the release of dual nationals – including Nazanin– is expected to be at the top of the agenda.

This comes as the Free Nazanin campaign and human rights organisation Redress submitted a dossier to the new Foreign Secretary asking her to impose Magnitsky sanctions on ten Iranian officials involved in Iran’s hostage taking.

The human rights sanctions, which were first introduced by the UK government last year, enable states to target individuals who have committed serious violations of human rights by restricting their travel and freezing their assets.

Campaigners say the 2,000-day anniversary of Nazanin's detention in Iran on September 23 is fast approaching, with no indication that she will be released soon.

According to Redress, her case is one of at least 30 cases of foreign nationals who have been arbitrarily detained in Iran for diplomatic leverage in recent years, otherwise known as ‘state hostage-taking’.

Mr Cleverly told Sky News: “We will continue pushing and we will not rest until we get them all home. Their incarceration is arbitrary, it’s completely unjustified and we have made it clear that we will not stop working to get those British dual nationals home.”

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Asked how confident he was that Ms Truss would succeed where others had failed, he said: “Well, it is never easy negotiating with the Iranian leadership.

“But I have no doubt that she will … She’s an incredibly focused and energetic minister, she’s well-regarded for that, and I have no doubt that she will apply that energy to these negotiations.”

Nazanin's husband Richard reported on Sky News that he had “good” talks with Ms Truss ahead of her meeting and that, during a 10-minute phone call on Sunday (September 19), he said his wife’s case should be the top priority and he wanted to see the Government tackle hostage-taking head on.

The Ratclliffe family when Gabriella was one week old

Richard Zaghari-Ratcliffe said he had 'good' talks with the new Foreign Secretary - Credit: Archant

He added: “I thought it was a good phone call, I am pleased it happened, but also surprised that it happened so quickly – I’m sure we’ll have more strident conversations after she has returned from New York.

“The chat was more open than you would have thought, she definitely listened to me which is obviously a good sign early on, but I’m always pessimistic, having had this conversation with her predecessors.

“The situation is still so delicate and ambiguous, however it’s possible that Nazanin could be returned home and it’s possible she could be put back in jail.

“At this stage it would be useful to see more action rather than reassuring words – but this is a positive step, there was a clear dialogue there.”

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK, said: “One of the things we’d like to see most urgently from the new Foreign Secretary is a clearly articulated strategy for securing the release of British nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran.

“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.”

Ms Truss said: “I will be asking Iran to ensure the immediate and permanent release of all arbitrarily detained British nationals in Iran, and to begin working with us to mend our fractured relations.

“The UK, US and our international partners are fully committed to a nuclear deal, but every day that Iran continues to delay talks whilst escalating its own nuclear programme means there is less space for diplomacy.”

Additional reporting by Geraldine Scott and Ted Hennessey, PA.