Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells Boris Johnson she has 'lived in the shadow of his words’

Prime Minister made 'no apology' as pair met for the first time since her release

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and daughter Gabriella in Downing Street, central London, before a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. PA

British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe told Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday that she has been "living in the shadow of his words" when the pair met for the first time since she was released after being detained in Iran for six years.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was freed in March with fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori after the UK agreed to settle a historic £400 million ($486.9 million) debt dating from the late 1970s.

She attended Downing Street with her family on Friday to ask Mr Johnson, who was foreign secretary between 2016 and 2018, why it took so long to negotiate her release.

Following the meeting, her husband Richard told Sky News she had put it to Mr Johnson that she had been forced to "live in the shadow of his words" during years in jail.

The meeting was the first time the two have come face to face since Mr Johnson, who was foreign secretary at the time, wrongly claimed in 2017 that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016.

Four days later, she was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing, where his comments were cited as proof that she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

After facing a sustained backlash over the remarks, Mr Johnson has previously said he was sorry “if [he had] inadvertently caused any further anguish”.

Mr Ratcliffe revealed after the meeting that Mr Johnson had not apologised to his wife.

Prior to the meeting Mr Johnson's spokesman had said it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her "unfair" detention.

“I think it is important to remember that it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her unfair detention, and the decision to release her was always in their gift," he said.

“However, I would point back to the prime minister’s words, his answers to questions on this before and he has previously apologised for his comments in 2017.”

In March Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had criticised the government, asking: "How many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five?"

A spokesman for the prime minister said the engagement was “something we’ve worked together on to make happen”.

“We’ve said previously that the prime minister was open to meeting Nazanin as well as Mr Anoosheh Ashoori," he said.

“It is something we have been trying to arrange. I’ve set out that he is going to welcome her to Downing Street to discuss her ordeal in Iran.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, arrive at Downing Street in London, May 13, 2022.  Reuters

Politician Tulip Siddiq, who campaigned for her release, said that she "deserves to hear directly from the prime minister about why it took so long to get her home". Ms Siddiq also attended the meeting.

Ms Siddiq said she was also going to raise the case of Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American environmentalist who also holds British citizenship who is still detained in Iran.

"Never again must the government allow British citizens to be taken hostage with so little done to secure their release and so few reprisals for those responsible," Ms Siddiq said.

“After six long years of unjust and unlawful imprisonment in Iran, Nazanin deserves to hear directly from the prime minister about why it took so long to get her home.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, husband Richard Ratcliffe, their daughter Gabriella and Labour MP Tulip Siddiq in Downing Street, London, May 13, 2022.  Reuters

“I will also be submitting evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry on hostage taking, which I hope will get the bottom of the government’s abject failure in handling cases like Nazanin’s.”

Last month the UK said it would be holding an inquiry into the detention and release from Iran of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori.

The Commons Foreign Committee said it would take evidence on how their cases were handled by British officials as part of a wider investigation into “state level hostage situations”.

Since their return both have been critical of the failure of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to secure their freedom sooner.

Announcing the inquiry, committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said their return was “long overdue” and that they were right to seek answers as to what happened.

On Friday, EU envoy Enrique Mora said he has called for the release on "humanitarian grounds" of an Iranian-Swedish academic on death row, during a mission to Tehran to help revive Iran's 2015 nuclear pact.

Mr Mora, the European Union's co-ordinator for talks between Iran and major world powers to restore the deal, met Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri, who is also deputy foreign minister, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr Mora tweeted after his departure that he had raised the case of the academic, Ahmedreza Djalali.

"I want to underline that in Tehran I raised the need to stop execution of #AhmadrezaDjalali and asked for his release on humanitarian grounds," the EU deputy foreign policy chief wrote.

Mr Djalali, who was based in Stockholm and worked at Karolinska Medical Institute, was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016.

He was sentenced to death in 2017 after being found guilty of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel's Mossad spy agency that had led to their assassinations.

Early this month, Iran's Isna news agency reported that the death sentence would be carried out by May 21.

The announcement coincided with the end of the trial in Sweden of Hamid Noury, a former official in Iran's judiciary, accused of war crimes for his role in the killing of prisoners in Iran during the 1980s.

Prosecutors have requested life imprisonment for Noury, and he will be sentenced in July.

Updated: May 13, 2022, 2:41 PM
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