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PM should have called for my wife's release, says husband of Briton held in Iran

The husband of a British-Iranian woman being held behind bars in Tehran has criticised the Government's response to her plight as she prepares for an appeal in the latest stage of the battle for her freedom.

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is in jail for allegedly plotting to topple the government in Tehran but details of the charges against her have been kept secret and her husband Richard Ratcliffe claimed she was being used as a "bargaining chip" in a diplomatic spat between Iran and the UK.

Mr Ratcliffe said Theresa May and her ministers could have "publicly stood up for Nazanin more" and should have called for her release.

The Prime Minister raised concerns about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

Mr Ratcliffe said: "She raised those concerns in September. What happened after September? Nothing much, really."

He said it was a "good thing" that she did raise concerns but "the Prime Minister raising criticisms would be better, the Prime Minister calling for her release would be better still".

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north-west London, was arrested at Tehran Airport on April 3 2016 with her two-year-old daughter Gabriella.

Mr Ratcliffe has suggested her detention is being used by the Tehran government in an attempt to get the British authorities to pay for an arms deal with Iran struck in the 1970s.

"Obviously our family being caught up as a bargaining chip in international politics is a pretty tough place to be," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said more details of the charges against her may emerge at the appeal this week, which he hopes could bring an end to her ordeal.

"Who knows how it will go, we live it day by day. We will see where we are on Wednesday with this appeal and we will see what happens afterwards.

"Certainly, the longer it goes on the more pieces there are to pick up afterwards. So, hopefully, the sooner the better."

The Thomson Reuters Foundation worker was moved out of solitary confinement over Christmas and Mr Ratcliffe said his wife's condition had improved.

"To go back a month or so ago she was suicidal and on hunger strike and very, very low and at her wits' end," he said.

"I spoke to her on Christmas Day. She is still very sad and very low but there was more fight in her again. I think having been moved so she is with other women makes a big difference."


From Belfast Telegraph