Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe uses first anniversary of release to demand UK action on Iran

Her husband Richard fears British government no longer likely to impose penalties on regime and associated figures

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and husband Richard Ratcliffe are calling for more UK action against Iran. AP
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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has used the first anniversary of her release from prison in Iran to press for sanctions against 10 Iranian officials.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard have been trying to balance a normal life with daughter Gabriella with campaigning for policy changes in the UK.

British-Iranians Morad Tahbaz and Mehran Raoof are known to still be held in Iranian jails, while another dual citizen Ali Reza Akbari was executed this year.

“You can be free living in a free world, but not be free in your mind,” Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe said.

A Channel 4 film, being aired on Thursday, highlights some of the anger, desperation and fear she felt while behind bars.

Her legal advisers, Redress, have submitted the names of 10 Iranian officials asking that they be subject to human rights sanctions over state hostage-taking, The Guardian reported.

Foreign Office minister David Rutley this week said the UK did not believe a state could be a hostage taker and used the term “arbitrary detention for diplomatic leverage”.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe went from being from a wife and mother living in London to a household name in 2016 when she was detained in Iran while on a visit to see her parents in Tehran.

Separated from her daughter Gabriella, a toddler at the time, and subjected to vigorous interrogation by authorities, the UK-Iranian was later sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime.

She has always denied the charge.

Mr Ratcliffe said he was worried the British government was less interested in sanctions for cases such as theirs since his wife has been released.

“One year on, I do find it upsetting how the government won’t say how many Brits are currently held hostage by Iran, that they tried to imply to parliament this week that states do not take hostages, and that since Nazanin’s case, they have not recognised the torture of any British citizen by a foreign government," he said.

“They have also stripped torture figures from their annual human rights report.

“It is staggering but also depressing that the issue of arbitrary detention for leverage has been dropped from the new integrated review in favour of prioritising medium powers that do not like discussions around human rights.

“I fear there is a recalibration of the protections of a British passport unfolding before our eyes," he added. "The anniversary of Nazanin’s release is a good day to start sending a clear message — that the UK will protect its citizens and not just wring its hands.”

The Foreign Office said: “The UK will never accept our nationals being used as political leverage and we continue to press Iran to end this abhorrent practice.

“Since October we have announced six packages of human rights sanctions, including on Iran’s morality police, Iran’s prosecutor general and the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] in its entirety. We do not speculate on future designations.”

Updated: March 16, 2023, 1:44 PM