Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Johnson meeting ‘positive and constructive’, says jailed Briton’s husband

Richard Ratcliffe’s wife Nazanin has been held in Iran for the last 19 months.

The husband of jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has described his hour-long meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as “positive and constructive”.

Richard Ratcliffe said Mr Johnson has no fixed date for his planned visit to Iran, but the Foreign Secretary was “keen” for him to travel with him.

Mr Ratcliffe said he had pressed Mr Johnson to give diplomatic protection to his wife.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who accompanied Mr Ratcliffe to the meeting, said Mr Johnson had not ruled out such a move.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “We talked, of course, about the point of diplomatic protection … and it’s different from diplomatic immunity.

“Diplomatic protection is in essence when a state like Britain decides that Nazanin was being treated badly because she is British and she is entitled to be protected as an extension of the British state. It is not unprecedented, but it is a big step.

“I said I thought it would be important and helpful. The Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office expressed reservations, and we agreed that there are some questions that we have sent from the lawyers.

“They have agreed to answer the questions and then for the lawyers to sit down and talk it through. Both legally and then also practically. But certainly, I think it is an important thing for us to be pushing for.”

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson meets with Richard Ratcliffe (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Asked what reservations Mr Johnson had expressed about granting diplomatic protection status, Mr Ratcliffe said: “He didn’t personally give a long list of objections.

“He asked how it would help, in a nutshell. What did we think doing it would make different from what we are doing currently?

“I said, ‘I’m not a lawyer, I think it would help, I think it would send an important signal that the way Nazanin is being treated is unacceptable’.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family handout/PA)

“I appreciate it’s an escalation, but I think … it’s important that where softly-softly doesn’t work, where it has been escalated by the past couple of weeks’ events and the Foreign Secretary’s words being used, I think it is appropriate. We agreed to keep talking about it.”

Mr Ratcliffe expressed concern for his wife’s state of health.

“She talks about being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I absolutely believe that’s true. I think it’s important I don’t exaggerate anything in the media and I’m not melodramatic, but she is in a difficult place.”

Ms Siddiq, who is Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP, described the meeting as “encouraging”.

The MP said Mr Ratcliffe had failed to obtain a visa to visit Iran over the last 19 months, and had not seen his daughter Gabriella, who is living in the country with her maternal grandparents, during that time.

“Gabriella has lost the ability to speak English now, so it is very difficult for Richard and Gabriella to communicate. Their communication is via Skype, but as she doesn’t speak English and he doesn’t speak Farsi, you can imagine it’s not an ideal solution.

“So, if he gets to go with the Foreign Secretary, he gets to see his daughter for the first time in 19 months. And if he’s there, he has the right to visit Nazanin in prison as her relative.”

Ms Siddiq added: “The Foreign Secretary categorically said he would leave no stones unturned in this campaign to get my constituent home, and that’s what we are going to hold him to.”

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph