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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Husband Richard says 'prisoner swap' comment huge surprise

PUBLISHED: 07:56 25 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 30 April 2019

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

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

PA Wire/PA Images

West Hampstead's Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released from Iranian prison as part of a high-level prisoner swap, Iran's foreign minister suggested last night.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin CampaignForeign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

West Hampstead's Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released from Iranian prison as part of a high-level prisoner swap, Iran's foreign minister suggested last night.

Nazanin, who has been in Evin prison for more than three years, could be released in return for a number of Iranians imprisoned at the behest of the United States, Javad Zarif said during a New York talk.

Speaking to this newspaper today, Nazanin's husband Richard said: “On balance it's probably a good thing. definitely the fact that he's talking about a release is a good thing.

“It's a surprise to hear – he said some nice things about Nazanin, and by and large it's not something he has done before.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin CampaignNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

He said the idea of a prisoner swap had not been mooted since 2017, and he was unsure as to whether it was something the foreign office had been aware of.

“We just don't know how this fits,” he said.

“Have they had that said to them before? It certainly not something we've been told.

Mr Zarif said he has the authority to make an “exchange” happen, adding that the United States government knew Iran was prepared to do a swap six months ago.

Earlier this year Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt granted Nazanin diplomatic protection in an unprecedented move designed to put pressure on Iran and help Nazanin to receive medical treatment.

Richard added that although Nazanin's mental health, breast and shoulder ailments have not been treated, she has at least had a number of scans and the Iranian Health Commission is due to consider the results of those scans.

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He said this could be related.

“It's not impossible that the Health Commission might even get back to her and offer medical clemency, but on the other hand this could mean the opposite.”

Cautious about the games the Iranian authorities have played with Nazanin's liberty, Richard added: “Normally my sense with Iran is nothing is flippant, and so it will have a meaning, but it might not be the obvious meaning.

“It's always good when we're not forgotten.”

The minister was speaking at the Asia Society. There, after citing the case of an Iranian woman who had given birth in Australian prison while awaiting extradition to the US on what he called “phoney charges” relating to a deal made by an Iranian broadcasting company.

He said: “She has been lingering in an Australian jail for the past three years. Now we hear about Nazanin Zaghari (Ratcliffe) and her child, and I feel sorry for them and I have done my best to help, but nobody talks about this lady in Australia who gave birth to a child in prison whose child is growing up outside prison with mother in prison.

“So, what can I do as a foreign minister? And I put this offer on the table publicly now. Exchange them.

“All these people that are in prison, inside the United States, on extradition request from the United States - we believe their charges are phoney.

“The United States believes the charges against these people in Iran are phoney. Fine. Let's not discuss that. Let's have an exchange.

“I'm ready to do it. And I have authority to do it. We've informed the government of the United States six months ago that we are ready - not a response yet. If they tell you anything else, they're lying.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The treatment of all British-Iranians detained in Iran, including Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is a priority for the Government.

“We remain concerned about all of our consular cases and raise them at every level and every opportunity.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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