The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran said Tuesday that the UK government had missed an opportunity to secure her release and warned of tough times ahead amid worsening relations between the two countries.
Speaking on the second anniversary of her arrest, Richard Ratcliffe said that Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, had not done enough and called on the prime minster Theresa May to become involved in efforts to secure his wife Nazanin’s release.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016 and jailed for five years for sedition. She had denied the charges and dismissed claims that she was seeking to overthrow the government through her work with the philanthropic arm of the Thomson Reuters media group.
Mr Ratcliffe has been the most vocal of campaigners for prisoners held in Tehran and met with Boris Johnson last year.
The politician promised to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to free Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe, but her husband accused Mr Johnson not doing enough. He is seeking a new meeting with Mr Johnson.
“It feels like there’s a standoff,” said Mr Ratcliffe. “It feels like a missed opportunity with potential turbulence ahead.
“Hopefully there will be a miracle in the next couple of weeks but if not, then things could get tough.”
Fresh uncertainty over the fate of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe – one of an estimated 30 dual nationals held over a two-year period – has come amid rising tensions with Britain, Germany and France pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran.
The action comes amid warnings from Donald Trump that he will pull out of a deal in May unless European allies fix “flaws” in an agreement that lifted sanctions in return for limits on Iran’s nuclear energy programme.
“If the UK is about to impose sanctions on Iran, that wouldn’t be good for any British prisoners,” said Mr Ratcliffe.
“It’s not for me to tell the government how to run its foreign policy but to remind the government it has obligations to protect British citizens.”
Mr Ratcliffe said that he believed the main stumbling block remained an unpaid £400 million bill over an aborted arms deal for Britain to supply tanks and armoured vehicles to the regime of the Shah of Iran.
The deal was was scrapped following the 1979 revolution. After decades of refusing to return a down payment, Britain was ordered by a trade court in 2009 to repay some £390 million. It has yet to return the money.
The Iranian regime has previously offered to move Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe to house arrest so she could be with her three-year-old daughter, who was with her when she was arrested. The family has rejected the offer and their daughter remains in the care of relatives.
Mr Ratcliffe said that the that the head of the prison where his wife is being held had told her that he approved her release months ago. “The ball is absolutely in the [British] government’s court,” he said.