Husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe meets Boris Johnson and tells of her suffering in Iran jail
- Credit: PA
The husband of jailed West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has urged foreign secretary Boris Johnson to escalate the government’s support for her as the “softly-softly” approach was not working.
Richard Ratcliffe described an hour-long meeting with Mr Johnson this morning to discuss his wife’s case as “positive and constructive”, even though he came home without a date from the foreign secretary to visit his wife in jail.
Mr Ratcliffe said, as he emerged from the meeting at the foreign office, he had pressed Mr Johnson to secure the release of Nazanin, whose mental and physical health is deteriorating as she spends her second year in an Iranian jail.
He said his wife was “on the verge of a nervous breakdown” and her mental state had suffered since a gaffe by Mr Johnson about her activities in Iran led to the threat of further charges.
The foreign secretary has apologised for the “distress” and “suffering” he caused by his suggestion that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran, which has exposed her to the threat of her five-year jail sentence being doubled.
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Richard said the situation was “deeply upsetting for her”.
He said: “That’s the one point she wanted to make to the foreign secretary - what it’s like to watch yourself being called a spy on television every night which has happened only in the last two weeks, and just wanting him to do what he can to bring her home.”
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He said: “She talks about being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I absolutely believe that’s true.
“I think it’s important I don’t exaggerate anything in the media and I’m not melodramatic, but she is in a difficult place.”
Richard suggested his wife was being used as a “bargaining chip” in a wider diplomatic dispute between London and Tehran.
He urged the government to be granted diplomatic protection, which would escalate her case to the level of a state-to-state dispute rather than a simple consular case, but the foreign office has “reservations” about such a move.
He said: “Diplomatic protection is in essence when a state like Britain decides that Nazanin was being treated badly because she is British and she is entitled to be protected as an extension of the British state. It is not unprecedented, but it is a big step.”
He added: “I appreciate it’s an escalation, but I think ... it’s important that where softly-softly doesn’t work, where it has been escalated by the past couple of weeks’ events and the foreign secretary’s words being used, I think it is appropriate.”
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq, who accompanied Mr Ratcliffe to the meeting, said Mr Johnson had not ruled out such a move as a means of securing her release.
As reported in the Ham&High, Nazanin is facing a Cancer scare and has seen an Iranian doctor after finding lumps on her breasts.
Richard, who has failed to obtain a visa to visit Iran over the last 19 months, and had not seen his daughter Gabriella, who was detained in Iran and is living with her grandparents. since his wife was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3 last year.
Gabriella, three no longer communicates in English, but only in Farsi.
He urged Boris Johnson to allow him to accompany him on a trip to Iran to visit his family.
Ms Siddiq Mr Johnson had made clear in the meeting that he would “certainly” push to see Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe himself in prison if he goes to Iran.
In the past, British diplomats have been to the prison but been unable to see her, she said.
She added: “The foreign secretary categorically said he would leave no stones unturned in this campaign to get my constituent home, and that’s what we are going to hold him to.”