Liz Truss must ‘be brave’ to secure Nazanin’s release, says husband

Richard Ratcliffe met with the Foreign Secretary on Thursday to discuss further strategy around attempts to free his wife from prison in Iran.

Richard Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe

The Foreign Secretary must “be brave” in order to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her husband has said.

Richard Ratcliffe met with Liz Truss on Thursday to discuss further strategy around attempts to free his wife from prison in Iran.

Mr Ratcliffe admitted that he and his team had been left “frustrated” by the outcome of the meeting, but said Ms Truss had been “open to things”.

The meeting came amid a hunger strike which Mr Ratcliffe has been staging outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office since Sunday.

Two tents have been pitched off Whitehall, with signs reading “Free Nazanin” along with flowers and a collection of small coloured rocks.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
Richard Ratcliffe met with Liz Truss to discuss efforts to free his wife from prison in Iran (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Ratcliffe said following the meeting: “The meeting went as I feared it might in the fact that the Foreign Secretary didn’t actually give us anything new.

“I think we all came away feeling a bit frustrated. The problem is not the minister caring… but in the end the policy approach wasn’t changing.

“She’s a fresh set of eyes, she definitely said she was open to things.

“(But) I’ve had conversations like that with her predecessors, the Government is too timid and that timidity causes harm.

“I said quite stridently, ‘you need to do something, you need to be brave’. I said to the Prime Minister when I met him two years ago, ‘you need to be brave’.”

Mr Ratcliffe warned that if the Government’s approach to the negotiations does not change, it “emboldened” Iran and invites it to “play cat and mouse with Nazanin”.

But he said it is “important not to prejudge” Ms Truss.

“She’s new in the job,” he said.

“We’ve seen a trajectory with all foreign secretaries where they find their feet… I apologised to her, I said ‘listen it’s fairly early in your career and here I am sitting on your doorstep, that’s a fairly aggressive tactic.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
The meeting came as Mr Ratcliffe stages a hunger strike outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Steve Parsons/PA)

“But I did want to send an alarm call that the status quo isn’t working.

“The point of the meeting on some level was to get her to go away and think about it, we’ll see in the days to come if she does.”

Mr Ratcliffe was joined in the meeting by members of his family and his MP, Tulip Siddiq, who said she “desperately” hopes to find solutions to the situation.

The Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn raised the issue of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ongoing imprisonment in Iran with an urgent question in the House of Commons on Monday.

She said: “Today, Richard is on hunger strike on the Foreign Secretary’s doorstep in Westminster in Whitehall, pleading with her and the Prime Minister to do more to challenge Iran’s hostage-taking and to bring Nazanin home to be reunited with him and their daughter, Gabriella.

“Going on hunger strike is the absolute last resort for anyone, and Richard told me that he feels there is no other option left, because he feels our Government’s response to his wife’s case has been pitiful.”

Mr Ratcliffe said he will continue with his hunger strike.

“We’re looking to provoke a reaction, that reaction was a meeting but the meeting was a reiteration of the status quo.

That’s not quite the change we’re looking for so we’ll keep going.”

Commenting on the meeting, Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International UK, said: “It’s encouraging that Liz Truss is taking the time to talk in person to Richard, but what we really want to see is the Foreign Secretary and her team setting out a convincing plan for how Nazanin and other arbitrarily-detained UK nationals are going to be brought home.

“There’s been a lot of talk, assurances and promises from ministers about Nazanin, but she’s on the verge of going back to jail and the Government doesn’t seem the slightest bit nearer to ending her terrible ordeal.

“The Government should explain why it still hasn’t granted diplomatic protection status to Anoosheh Ashoori, it should explain what exactly it’s doing to support Nazanin and her family, and most of all it should set out a clearly-articulated strategy for bringing Nazanin and other unjustly-detained British nationals back home from Iran.”

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