'Brave' action needed as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spends 2,000th day in detention

Richard Ratcliffe says it feels like Iran has been stringing the UK government along

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband has demanded “brave” action from the British government as she spends her 2,000th day in detention.

Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter, Gabriella, set up a giant snakes and ladders game outside Parliament, in London, to symbolise the frustrating lack of progress.

“We'd love to get back to being a normal family, and I still have every faith that some day we will,” he said.

Amnesty International said she was the victim of “political games” played between governments.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was first detained in April 2016 and convicted on national security charges. She was scheduled to be released in April but has not been allowed home.

She is one of several people with British or dual-British nationality detained in Iran.

“It's felt like we've been going for a very long time,” Mr Ratcliffe said. “It's 2,000 days of ups and downs and twists and turns and false dawns, and snakes and ladders seemed to encapsulate that because we're in the middle of a game between two governments. We're just a bargaining chip in it.”

He urged the government to change its approach to Tehran, especially with the changing of foreign secretary - the fifth minister in the post since Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained. The list of former foreign secretaries includes Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Richard Ratcliffe, left, and MP Janet Daby arrive in Downing Street to deliver a petition calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to work for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's freedom. EPA

“I think there needs to be more honesty on what's going on. We've been going for 2,000 days, that is symptomatic of it not working so far,” Mr Ratcliffe said.

“We've spent a good year now quite close in the doorway and negotiations going on, and the government [has been] very reluctant to do anything too tough, so as not to disrupt those negotiations. And it's felt like Iran's been stringing them along.

“The government needs to be brave and just start doing things that will cause a rethink among those in charge of Iran's hostage-taking action,” he said.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK's chief executive, said that while there had previously been strong words from British ministers, strong action was now needed.

“The reason this family is missing someone who should be with them every day, is that Nazanin is being used in political games,” he said.

Squares on the giant snakes and ladders board. PA

“The government needs to be clear that there is not going to be movement on a whole range of issues that I think are part of the political game unless these human beings are brought back, reunited with their families, and we remove these players from the game the governments are playing,” he said.

The new Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, has raised the case with her Iranian counterpart.

“She is going through an appalling ordeal. We are working tirelessly to secure her return home to her family,” Ms Truss said.

“I pressed the Iranian foreign minister on this yesterday and will continue to press until she returns home.”

Updated: September 23, 2021, 3:38 PM