Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: British-Iranian citizen criticizes British government for six-year delay in release from Iranian prison | british news

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has criticized the British government for the delay in securing her release, saying that “what happened now should have happened six years ago”.

At her first press conference since returning to the UK, the 43-year-old thanked supporters, including her “wonderful, wonderful” husband Richard for campaigning for her release.

But she said the journey home had been “hard” and delays in settling a £400 million debt with Iran from 1979 contributed to her “cruel” six-year detention.

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“Do you feel angry?”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Press Conference – As It Happened

She said: “I was told many times that ‘oh, we’re going to take you home’. That never happened.

‘How many foreign secretaries does it take to get someone home? What happened now should have happened six years ago.’

She added that the “meaning of freedom will never be complete” until… Morad Tahbazu and other dual nationals are released and reunited with their families.

Read more: The six-year struggle for freedom

Foreign Secretaries
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Five foreign secretaries – counterclockwise from bottom left Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab – and (not pictured) Liz Truss are on post while Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is detained

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: “I believe that the meaning of freedom will never be complete once all of us who are unjustly detained in Iran are reunited with our families.

“To start with Morad, but also the other dual nationalities, members of religious groups or prisoners of conscience who, I mean, we do realize that if I’ve been in prison for six years, there are so many other people – we don’t want to know not their names – they suffered in prison in Iran.

“Justice in Iran is meaningless.”

She said she was very grateful to “everyone who has been involved in bringing them home” and emphasized the work of her lawyer in Iran, who “fought fearlessly” for her release.

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Nazanin reunited with family in UK

Moment of return was ‘precious’ and ‘very emotional’

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “powerless” in prison and said she was “overwhelmed” when she got back to the UK.

“That moment was precious,” she said. “I waited so long for that moment.

“And I was overwhelmed, especially to get to know Gabriella and Richard after such a long time.

“It was a very, very emotional moment.”

She said after “week two or three” of her detention, Iranian officials had “told me they want something from the British” in reference to the debt issue.

She thought further about her overall experience, saying it “will always haunt her,” but that there was a “black hole” in her heart that she left on the plane.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was joined by her husband, Richard, at Portcullis House in London to talk about her experience, along with their local MP Tulip Siddiq – who had long campaigned for her return.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks at a press conference hosted by their local MP Tulip Siddiq, in the Macmillan Room, Portcullis House, London, UK, following her release from detention in Iran last week, March 21, 2022. Victoria Jones/Pool via REUTERS
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Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband, Richard, at the press conference

‘People recognized our injustice’

Her husband said “it’s nice to retire” and he was “extremely happy and proud” to have her home.

He added “people recognized our injustice” and his wife’s freedom was secured because “a lot of people cared”.

Ms Siddiq, Labor MP for Hampstead and Kilburn and the Treasury’s shadow finance minister, met the British-Iranian charity worker for the first time on Sunday after six years of campaigning.

She told the press conference that she had asked the Foreign Affairs Committee of MPs to investigate Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

She also paid tribute to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her husband and their ‘brave’ daughter Gabriella, adding that they were an ‘ordinary family who got into extraordinary circumstances and rose to the challenge’.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 on security charges by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps at Imam Khomeini’s airport after a holiday to Iran where she introduced her daughter to her parents.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at RAF Brize Norton
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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at RAF Brize Norton

She came back to Britain with a colleague of dual nationality Anoosheh Ashooriwho was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother in Tehran.

The 67-year-old spent nearly five years in Evin Prison after being charged with espionage.

A victory salute to Anoosheh Ashoori on his flight to freedom
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Anoosheh Ashoori, bearded on the run home, was arrested in 2017

Both Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori have consistently denied the charges against them.

Campaigners now hope Iran will release 66-year-old British-American citizen Morad Tahbaz, who was detained in January 2018 during a crackdown on environmentalists.

Daughter of Morad Tahbaz in emotional plea for Boris Johnson and Liz Truss

The eldest daughter of Mr. Tahbaz, Roxanne Tahbaz, was invited to the press conference to highlight her father’s ongoing case.

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Nazanin ‘haunted’ by captivity

She said the family felt that he and her mother, who had imposed a travel ban in Iran, had been “abandoned”.

After an update she received shortly before the press conference, she said her father had not been given a leave of absence and had instead been sent back to prison.

In a direct message to Boris Johnson and Secretary of State Liz Truss, she said: “We beg you to keep your word and bring back both my parents”.

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