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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Nazanin release: husband on ‘tenterhooks’ about Boris visit to Iran

The British foreign secretary Boris Johnson is in the Islamic republic on Saturday to try secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, meets with British foreign secretary Boris Johnson in Tehran. EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, meets with British foreign secretary Boris Johnson in Tehran. EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh

As the British foreign secretary flew into Iran on Saturday for his first visit to the country, Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Tehran prison since April 2016 on charges of spying, talked of his anxiety about the chances for his spouse’s release.

“I’m waiting on tenterhooks – biting my nails,” Mr Ratcliffe said. “I’m really pleased [Mr Johnson] is there in time for Nazanin’s trial and waiting to see what will happen, and trying not to have too clear expectations at all.”

Ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson had spoken of his desire to secure the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual British-Iranian nationals being held in Iran. “We will … discuss our bilateral relationship and I will stress my grave concerns about our dual national consular cases and press for their release where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the foreign secretary was hoping to visit his wife in jail, as well as securing a meeting with the head of the Iranian judiciary, who acts independently of the country’s political system, even president Hassan Rouhani. Mr Ratcliffe had hoped to accompany Mr Johnson on the trip to see his wife for the first time in 19 months but this had been impossible to achieve.

“If I’m blunt, it is better that he is there in time for her trial than he and I go there after her trial and she’s been sentenced to more years,” said Ratcliffe. “Obviously I want her to be home – it’s better to see her than not see her for months and months and months.”

He said: “I’m more hopeful, with the announcement of him going. It feels to me that there are no guarantees but that it is possible that she would be home for Christmas. And that possibility is worth holding on to.”

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Read more:

Boris Johnson to raise Iranian dual national's release during Middle East trip

Rouhani uses Guantanamo defence to dismiss pleas for Nazanin release

Boris Johnson to issue words of warning to Iran

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Mr Ratcliffe last spoke to his wife by phone on Tuesday, when she had been “genuinely worried about the court case and getting quite agitated”.

Meanwhile, the BBC, the British state broadcaster, has asked Johnson to also bring up the freezing of assets of more than 150 people associated with its Persian service, something the broadcaster complained about to the United Nations in October.

The BBC’s Farsi-language service was barred from operating in Iran after its disputed 2009 presidential election, though the broadcaster says the service reaches some 18 million people weekly.

“We call upon the Iranian authorities to stop the harassment and persecution of our staff and their families,” the BBC said.

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