UK government urges Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband to stop speaking out

UK government urges Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband to stop speaking out
Boris Johnson meets with Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is detained in Iran, at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London, Britain, Nov. 15, 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 February 2021

UK government urges Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband to stop speaking out

UK government urges Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband to stop speaking out
  • Richard Ratcliffe: London should ‘impose a cost’ on Iranian ‘hostage taking’
  • Ministers concerned that Tehran could level new charges before her release

LONDON: The UK government has urged the husband of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to stop publicizing plans to free her on March 7 or risk jeopardizing her release.

But her husband Richard Ratcliffe tweeted that he rejects the government’s advice. “We continue to believe that transparency is the best form of protection from abuse,” he wrote.

“We have also made clear that the government’s role is to remind the Iranian authorities that Nazanin has the UK’s protection, not to act as a messenger for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) mafia tactics and suppression.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently under house arrest in Tehran, is nearing the end of a five-year jail sentence on charges of espionage that she denies.

Last year the IRGC leveled new, undisclosed charges against her, but later pulled back following public and diplomatic pressure.

“If anything happens to Nazanin or her family or if she is not released to the UK on 7 March — there should be consequences,” Ratcliffe tweeted.

“We will be discussing with the foreign secretary Dominic Raab his back-up plan. I don’t want there to be any doubt in the foreign secretary’s mind that we are approaching the time to make good on our conversations to impose a cost on hostage taking. My view is that if you won’t do it now, even when Nazanin is not released at the end of her sentence, then it is safe to presume that you never will,” he added.

“Either she is home at the end of her sentence, or there are consequences. Anything else is just noise.”

Ratcliffe and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) disagree over the best strategy for freeing her. 

He believes that speaking out and applying public pressure is the best way to encourage Tehran to release his wife, while the FCDO is concerned that publicly highlighting her release date could antagonize the regime and prompt new charges.

“I do think it was a remarkable lack of judgment by the FCDO to allow itself to be enrolled in passing on IRGC threats to the family, and say it would be the fault of our campaigning around Nazanin’s release date if something happened to Nazanin or her family,” Ratcliffe wrote, adding that he had repeatedly been told by FCDO ministers to be quiet. 

“The IRGC have an infinite capacity to spot weakness and an opportunity to manipulate — it is why the UK’s weakness on diplomatic protection is so genuinely ill advised. They sniff out every opportunity, unless you push back immediately.”

An FCDO spokesperson said in a statement: “The foreign secretary and FCDO remain in close contact with both Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, and continue to provide our support.

“We do not accept Iran detaining dual British nationals as diplomatic leverage. The regime must end its arbitrary detention of all dual British nationals.

“We continue to do everything we can to secure the release of all dual British nationals so that they can be reunited with their loved ones.”