Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘angry at theft of his life’ after failed release deal | Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian charity worker detained in Iran, said she was “very, very angry” after learning of a failed deal to bring her home.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe fears being a ‘bargaining stone’ in the ongoing nuclear talks and is filled with ‘anger at the theft of her life’ and the government’s ‘lack of urgency’ to secure her release, said Richard Ratcliffe.

The 43-year-old, from West Hampstead in London, was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted on national security charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, which she has always denied.

She was temporarily released in 2020 during the Covid pandemic, but received a new sentence in 2021 for “spreading propaganda” and is under house arrest in Tehran, unable to return to the UK to join her husband and wife. seven year old girl. , Gabriella.

On Wednesday, MPs were told the UK had signed a deal to secure his release this summer, but the deal had fallen through. Officials had previously declined to confirm a deal had been struck, but when asked about it by the couple’s MP, Tulip Siddiq, the Prime Minister did not deny it.

Britain has reportedly agreed to repay a £400 million debt it owes Iran over a failed British arms export deal in the 1970s. The British government has not disclosed why the The Zaghari-Ratcliffe deal fell through, but it is feared it is linked to negotiations with Iran over nuclear weapons.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted on national security charges. Photograph: Family document / PA

Iran is in talks in Vienna with diplomats from the United States, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United Kingdom, who hope to persuade it to limit its sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for lifting restrictions. economic sanctions.

In response to Siddiq’s question, Boris Johnson said the debt was “difficult to sort out and deal with for all sorts of sanctions-related reasons”.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was able to watch the debate from Tehran, where she is under house arrest at her mother’s property. “In a way, she’s all isolated and very removed from the world, but she can see it now in a way that she couldn’t see when she was in prison,” Ratcliffe said.

While confirmation that a deal was almost done this summer had left him feeling hopeful, “for Nazanin, it’s all really rushed, because it’s been dragging on for ages and she’s wasted six years of her life.”

He said his wife was “astonished” by the Prime Minister’s comments. She told him, “I could have been home last year. Why am I still here? They ruined my life, day after day, for six years. Where is [Johnson’s] emergency? I just want to go home.

The next day she was “even crosser” after “simmering on injustice”. “She’s calmer now,” he said yesterday, adding that they had spent the morning looking at Gabriella’s baby photos together.

Johnson has publicly pledged to meet Ratcliffe, an accountant who campaigned tirelessly for his wife’s release, although a date for the meeting has yet to be set. Ratcliffe is expected to meet with Foreign Office officials in the coming days.

Siddiq, Labor MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, called for transparency on why the deal collapsed. “My constituent, Richard, starved to death during a hunger strike. He didn’t eat for three weeks. I think they have a duty to explain themselves,” she said.

Ratcliffe said: “Why did it go wrong? What’s stopping it from being resolved now? I’m afraid we’ve become a bargaining chip in the nuclear negotiations and the debt is now a lever on the British side.

He added: “We are basically detained in a waiting room. It’s a cat and mouse game.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We remain committed to securing the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz. There is no point in linking broader bilateral issues to those unjustly detained in Iran.

“Separately, the UK has always said that we are committed to paying this debt to Iran. We continue to explore options as a matter of urgency to resolve this case, and will not comment further as discussions are ongoing. . »

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