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Call for action as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spends 2,000th day in detention

·4-min read

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has called on the Government to “be brave” and take a tougher stance against Iran as he marked 2,000 days of his wife being detained.

Richard Ratcliffe and the couple’s daughter Gabriella set up a giant snakes and ladders board in Parliament Square on Thursday to symbolise the feeling of being caught between two governments, the day after new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss raised the case with her Iranian counterpart.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of several people with British or dual-British nationality detained in Iran.

She was held in Tehran in 2016 on national security charges while taking her daughter Gabriella to see her family.

And Mr Ratcliffe said on Thursday: “It’s felt like we’ve been going for a very long time.

The protest in Parliament Square
The giant snakes and ladders board in Parliament Square (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“It’s 2,000 days of ups and downs and twists and turns and false dawns, and snakes and ladders seemed to encapsulate that because we’re in the middle of a game between two governments, we’re just a bargaining chip in it.”

Mr Ratcliffe, along with Amnesty International UK, has called for the Government to change their approach to Tehran, especially with the changing of Foreign Secretary – the fifth minister in the post since Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained.

And he said this included defining the situation as hostage-taking.

Detail of the giant snakes and ladders game in Parliament Square
Detail of the giant snakes and ladders game (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“I think there needs to be more honesty on what’s going on. We’ve been going for 2,000 days, that is symptomatic of it not working so far,” he said.

“We’ve spent a good year now quite close in the doorway and negotiations going on, and the Government (has been) very reluctant to do anything too tough, so as to disrupt those negotiations.

“And it’s felt like Iran’s been stringing them along.”

He added: “The Government needs to be brave and just start doing things that will cause a rethink amongst those in charge of Iran’s hostage-taking action.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, along with others such as fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori, were a top priority for new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the Foreign Office has insisted.

And Mr Ratcliffe said he understood Ms Truss was due to speak with his wife on Thursday.

In a statement, Ms Truss said: “Today marks 2,000 days since Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s cruel separation from her family.

“She is going through an appalling ordeal.

“We are working tirelessly to secure her return home to her family.

“I pressed the Iranian foreign minister on this yesterday and will continue to press until she returns home.”

While in the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Government would push the “rogue regime” of Iran “as far as we can” for her release.

Gabriella and Richard Ratcliffe and supporters hand in a petition to 10 Downing Street to mark the 2,000th day of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention
Richard Ratcliffe, second right, and his daughter Gabriella and supporters hand in a petition to 10 Downing Street to mark the 2,000th day of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

But Amnesty International UK’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said it was key to realise that the milestone marked 2,000 days of “a family missing a wife and mother”.

He said: “And the reason this family is missing someone who should be with them every day, is that Nazanin is being used in political games.”

He said that while there had previously been strong words from ministers, strong action was now needed too.

He added: “The Government needs to be clear that there is not going to be movement on a whole range of issues that I think are part of the political game unless these human beings are brought back, reunited with their families, and we remove these players from the game the governments are playing.”

Mr Ratcliffe added: “We’d love to get back to being a normal family, and I still have every faith that some day we will.”

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