Free Nazanin: Richard Ratcliffe says campaign for freedom is ‘further back’ than a year ago

This will be Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sixth Christmas away from her family.

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says it feels like his family are further away than they were a year ago of getting his wife free from detention in Iran.

On Friday morning, Richard Ratcliffe and a group of supporters including his MP Tulip Siddiq took part in a Mother’s March and delivered a Christmas tree to the Foreign Secretary, in a plea to get Nazanin home for Christmas.

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He believes that she is being held hostage by Iran over a £400 million arms debt owed to them by the UK.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British citizen, has now been detained in Iran for more than five years. PIC: Contributed.

Since his hunger strike, there has been a debate in parliament and some “shifting” in terms of government answers but he worries that Nazanin’s case could “drift” for a long time to come.

“In terms of the government’s answers, there’s been a little bit of shifting, there’s been less hiding behind her dual nationality and they have started calling Nazanin British,” the 45-year-old accountant told LondonWorld.

“It feels like we’re further back than we were a year ago as last Christmas we were near the end of her sentence.

“I feel like this could drift for a long time to come.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Iran for five years on spying charges, recently lost her appeal against a second prison sentence.

The 43-year-old mother-of-one from West Hampstead, Camden, has been detained in Iran since 2016 and has not seen her seven-year-old daughter Gabriella in two years.

She is currently staying with her mother in Tehran, but is not allowed to leave the country.

This is her sixth Christmas away from her family.

Mr Ratcliffe is meeting with foreign secretary Liz Truss later this week to discuss Nazanin’s case.

“We’ll see what we get told next week. I would have a lot more confidence if we were meeting the prime minister,” he added.

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said: “We want to send a message to the government that we’re not giving up.

“There was a chance that Nazanin could have been taken back to Evin Prison because she’s under house arrest at her parents at the moment and that certainly didn’t happen.

“I think that was a large result of Richard being relentless in his campaign, him going on hunger strike and keeping it in the public eye.

“I think they just didn’t feel they could drive her back to Evin Prison.

“What we want is for her to get her British passport back and to be on a flight back to London.

“There has never been any dispute on the debt that we owe, the question is how they’re going to pay them back.

“Every time I speak with the House of Commons about when they’re going to pay the money back, they said they’re doing the best they can but I haven’t had a concrete answer of when that will be.”

Last week, UK government officials were in Tehran discussing legal ways to pay the historic debt.

The Iranian ambassador to London, Mohsen Baharvand, said that he was in live discussions with the Foreign Office, and said the issues were not insurmountable.