Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks of ‘tough’ path to freedom and calls for release of other detainees in Iran

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke in public for the first time after her release from detention in Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe criticised the fact it took five changes of foreign secretary before she was released, saying “what happened now should have happened six years ago.”

She has urged an end to the detention of other dual nationals still detained in Iran

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The 43-year-old, who landed back in Britain on Thursday after the UK finally agreed to settle a £400 million debt dating back to the 1970s, was joined by her husband, Richard, in making statements at Portcullis House at midday.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed on security charges after being detained in 2016 at Imam Khomeini Airport following a holiday visit to Iran, where she introduced her daughter to her parents.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with her husband Richard and daughter GabriellaNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella | Credit: Darius Bazargan

Fellow British-Iranian Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, was returned home at the same time as Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

He was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother in Tehran.

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He was detained in Evin Prison for almost five years, having been accused of spying.

Both have consistently denied the allegations.

What did Nazanin say about other detainees?

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe highlighted the continued detention of British-US national and wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, who, according to his family, has gone on hunger strike after he was taken back into prison after just 48 hours on furlough.

Speaking at the conference she said it had been a “tough journey”, and said: “I believe that the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete as to such time that all of us who are unjustly detained in Iran are reunited with our families.

“To begin with Morad, but also the other dual nationals, members of religious groups, or prisoners of conscience who are … I mean, we do realise that if I have been in prison for six years there are so many other people we don’t know their names who have been suffering in prison in Iran.”

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What did she say about how long it took to gain her release?

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained on April 3 2016 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday visit with Gabriella to her parents, thanked those who campaigned for her release, saying she was “powerless” in prison.

Referencing her husband thanking the Government, she said: “I do not really agree with him on that level.”

She said she had seen five foreign secretaries over the course of six years, adding: “That is unprecedented given the politics of the UK. I love you Richard, respect whatever you believe, but I was told many, many times that ‘Oh we’re going to get you home’.

“That never happened.”

She said this resulted in her finding it difficult to place trust in them, adding: “I mean, how many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five?”

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Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe told reporters: “What’s happened now should have happened six years ago.”

“I should not have been in prison for six years”

Speaking of her experiences, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: “It will always haunt me. There is no other way around it. It will be with me.”

She said it is “very difficult” for her to talk about what she has been through.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she was told early on that there was something Iran wanted from Britain and that she would not be released until they got what they wanted.

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“So, I didn’t know the details at the time. But I think it was the week two or week three that I was arrested, like six years ago, that they told me ‘We want something off the Brits. We will not let you go until such time that we get it’.

“And they did keep their promise.”

What else was said?

Ahead of the conference, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband attended a private meeting with Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle, joined by their local MP, Tulip Siddiq, who long campaigned for her return.

Ms Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn and shadow economic secretary to the Treasury, paid tribute to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family saying: “My constituents are an ordinary family thrust into extraordinary circumstances.”

She added: “It was a family who never lost hope.”

She thanked the Foreign Office for its efforts in helping to bring Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe home but said she owed it to her to ask questions about why it took so long to bring her back, and the debt was not paid for so long.

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She said she would be writing to Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, to ask for an inquiry into Nazanin’s case

Richard Ratcliffe thanked everyone for “making us whole again” and said it is “nice to be retiring” from his campaigning.

He told reporters: “It’s been a long struggle. I’m immensely, immensely pleased and proud of my wife, and proud to have her home, proud that we start a new chapter, and get to be a normal family again.”

This article will continue to be updated

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