Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Johnson 'must raise case with Iran'

Media caption,
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being used to pressure the British government, her husband says

The husband of a jailed British-Iranian mother has urged Boris Johnson to raise his wife's case when he meets Iran's foreign minister later.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 39, is serving a five-year jail sentence in Iran after being convicted of spying.

But Richard Ratcliffe says his wife is "shaken and bewildered" after learning she could face new charges.

The UK's foreign secretary is due to meet his Iranian counterpart in Brussels for Iran nuclear deal talks.

British-Iranian dual national Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north London, has been held in Iran since April 2016, when she was detained at an airport while travelling home with her daughter.

She was accused by Iran of plotting against the government.

She denies the charges against her and says she was in the country to introduce her daughter, Gabriella, to her parents.

According to her husband, prosecutors have said that the case against her has been reopened and a decision is expected next week.

He said his wife was feeling "pretty down and shaken", and "bewildered as to how she could have done anything while she is sitting in prison".

Her parents, meanwhile, were "deeply traumatised", he added.

"For all of us, this has gone on for so long. It's just such a rabbit hole," he told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

He added that it was proving "very hard" to keep hopes alive, having had them dashed twice before - at Christmas and Easter.

At a court hearing, a judge told Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe that if the UK government did not pay a debt, she would not be released, Mr Ratcliffe said.

Iran-EU talks

The news of possible new charges against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe comes as Mr Johnson prepares to meet his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, in Brussels to discuss how to save the Iran nuclear deal after the US withdrew last week.

They will also meet the French and German foreign ministers and EU high representative Federica Mogherini.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The foreign secretary - with his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif - should "commit to protecting British citizens", Mr Ratcliffe said

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife's case and the cases of other dual nationals detained in Iran should be "top of [Mr Johnson's] priority list" at the meeting.

He said the UK has an obligation to its citizens to find a way to protect them so they can visit their families or do their work, and suggested the wider geo-political context was making a difference in his wife's case.

"Three more British citizens were taken in the last month," he claimed. "It feels there is something very specific they want from the UK."

In all, there are nearly 30 dual nationals being held by the Iranian authorities - many of whom are accused of security offences.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May urged Iran's president to make further progress over the release of British-Iranians "on humanitarian grounds".

Media caption,
Why one mother's personal plight is part of a complicated history between Iran and the UK (video published August 2019 and last updated in October 2019)

In November last year, Mr Johnson apologised for telling a Commons committee hearing that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalism in Iran - something her family and employer say is incorrect.

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