Boris Johnson must do more to bring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe home - NationalWorld comment

If he is ever to atone for his blunder in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the PM must do everything in his power to secure her release

In March 2016, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British dual citizen who worked as a project manager, returned to her home country.

She brought her 22-month-old daughter along with her, to visit her parents for Nowruz, Iranian New Year.

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It was a trip they’d made several times before, as it was important for Nazanin, like any mother, that her parents formed a bond with their granddaughter.

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, and his daughter Gabriella, hold a picture of Nazanin as they protest outside of the Iranian Embassy in London on March 8, 2021 (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

However, when Nazanin was in the process of boarding her flight back to the UK, she was arrested by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.

Her daughter remained in Iran under the care of her grandparents, until she returned to the UK to start school in 2019.

The regime’s reason for arresting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe - over “plotting to topple the Iranian regime” - was, of course, completely spurious.

A cooked-up story about a “BBC Persian online journalism course” aimed at “recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran” doesn’t hold any water.

Instead, Nazanin finds herself a human pawn in a game of geopolitical chess, a sad example of so-called “hostage diplomacy”.

She’s not alone. There are countless others, British nationals and those from other countries, who find themselves imprisoned in Iran, as the ruthless regime plays politics with the lives of human beings.

Now that Nazanin’s prison term has been extended, it’s clear that Iran has no intention of releasing her until it gets what it wants: £400 million, the sum it believes it’s owed by the UK over the non-delivery of tanks in 1979.

Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said this week that he fears his wife is facing an “open-ended detention”, until the matter between the governments is resolved.

In response to the latest news of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s plight, Boris Johnson made the usual noises condemning Iran and saying the UK was “working very hard” to secure her release.

Remember this is the man who made a catastrophic blunder while Foreign Secretary in 2017, when he said that Nazanin “was simply teaching people journalism”, a gaffe that risked adding jail time to her sentence. And one that failed to halt his political ascension.

Mr Johnson must do much more than issue press statements about how hard the Government is working to try to resolve this issue. Action is needed, and now.

The last five years must have been unimaginable for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family. As her daughter approaches her seventh birthday, her early memories of her mother will be beginning to fade.

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