Today, Nazarin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has put a formal request to meet Boris Johnson, after the foreign secretary made some contradictory remarks about the purpose of her visit to Iran in 2016.
Last April, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was charged with espionage and attempts to “softly overthrow” the Islamic Republic, and is currently serving a five-year sentence in a Tehran prison. Nazarin and her husband Richard Ratcliffe deny all charges, saying she was on vacation, visiting her family with her daughter, a then two-year old Gabriella.
However, on November 1st, Boris Johnson stated that “She was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand”, and Nazarin’s family fears that this comment might have jeopardized her situation. The foreign secretary backtracked on November 7th, saying that “my remarks could have been clearer. The UK government has no doubt that she was on holiday in Iran when she was arrested last year and that was the sole purpose of her visit”. However, a new hearing was organised in Teheran last Saturday. Now the woman faces the prospect of up to 16 years in an Iranian jail.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe is worried about Nazarin’s mental state, saying that his wife is depressed and asked to see a psychologist. “We don’t know how long this will last,” he said. “We’ve had Iran’s elections and UK elections and there’s no obvious sign of anything moving, the whole court case is finished, there is basic powerlessness.” “We’ve never met [Johnson],” Mr. Ratcliffe told the Guardian. “We’ve long had that as a request to meet with the foreign secretary and for instance, last week Tulip Siddiq [the family’s MP] met with him and I wasn’t allowed to attend, it was only the MPs.”
Monique Villa, the CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation, where Nazarin works as a project manager, says Nazarin’s work didn’t involve training journalists. “Nazarin is 100% innocent, she is obviously a bargaining chip between the government of Iran and the UK, and you can not play with a human being.”