Jailed UK-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘chess piece’: husband

Richard Ratcliffe (L), husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, his daughter Gabriella (C) and his mother Barbara, pose outside of 10 Downing Street in central London on Jan. 23, 2020, as he arrives to meet with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 23 January 2020

Jailed UK-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘chess piece’: husband

  • Ratcliffe said there was a 'gap' between him and the government over its tactics
  • Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016

LONDON: The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran, on Thursday said his wife was being used as a “chess piece,” following talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Speaking from Downing Street after his meeting, Richard Ratcliffe said there was a “gap” between him and the government over its tactics.
“I think there remains that gap between my sense that the government needs to be tougher with Iran, alongside improving relations generally, and the Foreign Office instinct to not have things escalate,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think I have come away thinking Nazanin is coming out tomorrow or even next week.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 after visiting relatives in Iran with her young daughter.
She worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — at the time.
Her family say Johnson jeopardized her case by mischaracterizing her job at the time.
Iranian authorities convicted her of sedition — a charge Zaghari-Ratcliffe has always contested — and she is serving a five-year jail term.
Her case has unfolded amid escalating tensions between Tehran and the West, particularly the United States and Britain.
But Ratcliffe believes it is particularly linked to London’s failure to return £400 million ($500 million, 450 million euros) owed to Tehran for a 1970s tank deal.
Ratcliffe said Thursday that his wife was “being held hostage” and used as a “chess piece.”
“That wasn’t disputed in there,” he said. “The UK obviously is wary of that tightrope it is walking between the US and Europe in Iran relations.
“I was saying ‘I think this is different’. This is a global norm, that actually we all uphold universal values where hostage-taking shouldn’t be happening.”
Ratcliffe had previously blamed Johnson for making his wife’s case worse by mistakenly stating, when he was foreign minister, that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists while visiting Iran.
The pair “didn’t talk about the past” on Thursday, he said.
Johnson “was very clear that he was committed in what he was doing... and that if there was anything they could do almost within reason, that they were ready to do it,” Ratcliffe added.
“I don’t doubt his personal commitment to Nazanin.”


Suicide bomber in SW Pakistan kills 8 at extremist rally

Updated 4 min 17 sec ago

Suicide bomber in SW Pakistan kills 8 at extremist rally

QUETTA, Pakistan: A powerful suicide bombing killed eight people and wounded 16 others in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province on Monday, local police said, when it struck an extremist rally in the regional capital.
Police said the blast went off near Quetta’s press club, where dozens of supporters for a militant group had gathered outside. They added that police officers were among those killed.
Hospital officials say some of the wounded persons were listed in critical condition.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. Baluch separatist groups, as well as rival Shiite and Sunni militants, operate in the province and have staged similar attacks before.
City police chief Abur Razza Cheema said dozens of followers of the radical Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat party were rallying to pay tribute to Islam’s first caliph when the bomber blew himself up there.
Footage on social media appeared to show the explosion ripping through the local bazaar, sending people running for shelter.
The bombing destroyed some nearby shops and vehicles, police said.
The impoverished province of Baluchistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by armed groups demanding more autonomy for the region and a greater share in gas and mineral resources there. The government claims it has quelled the insurgency but violence has continued.