Monday, January 24, 2022

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hopeful after the release of a British Council worker

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is more hopeful about her prospects of being released from prison after a British Council worker jailed in Iran on espionage charges was released and brought back to Britain, her husband said.

The British Council has announced that Aras Amiri, who has been jailed in Iran for more than three years over heavily criticized espionage charges, won her appeal to the country’s Supreme Court on Wednesday and has since returned to the UK.

The 34-year-old worked as an artistic affairs officer and was arrested back in 2018 while visiting his family in Tehran. The British Council said it always refuted the allegations against her after Ms Amiri’s 10-year prison sentence was overturned.

Speak with LatestPageNews Following their release, Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian citizen detained in Iran, said he and his wife were encouraged by a recent phone call from British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

“She got a call from Liz Truss on her birthday on Boxing Day, which was nice for her. Liz said, ‘You have priority, we’re working on things,'” said Mr Ratcliffe, whose wife has been jailed in Iran since April 2016.

However, the 45-year-old, who worked tirelessly for his wife’s release, noted that the Foreign Office was “fairly cautious” with him, adding that this was likely an indication that the situation was “sensitive”.

Mr Ratcliffe added: “Nazanin is probably a little angry about still being stuck there, but she’s more positive than I am. Basically, I’m pretty gloomy at this point. She sees the release of macaws as good news at face value and their coming out as a good thing.

“She was really exhausted before Christmas. But I can’t quite read this cat and mouse game. There are reasons for hope. I think we still have to campaign for a while, but Nazanin tries not to think about it.”

Still, he argued Ms Amiri’s release was “definitely a good sign” and that he was “more hopeful” about his wife’s plight than before the holidays. But the situation remains “volatile,” added Mr Ratcliffe, who recently went on a hunger strike over his wife’s detention.

“It’s like looking at icebergs – you can see things moving but you never know if you’ll hit something below the waterline or get a free pass,” he added.

“It’s a bit bittersweet for Nazanin. Whenever someone gets off, it’s a reminder that she’s still there. Of course there is no line in hostage cases, but when you see someone who was arrested after you step out, ask yourself why you aren’t.”

Mr Ratcliffe, who noted his wife had previously shared a prison cell with Ms Amiri, said it was great to have a more normal Christmas this year but it was difficult for his wife not to be there again.

Late last year, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP called on the government to pay a £400million debt it owes the Iranian government to secure her release.

Tulip Siddiq told MPs she was “increasingly frustrated” with the government as they “ignored the elephant in the room” that the debt had been linked to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention in Iran and needed to be paid in order to secure their release.

Commenting on Ms Amiri’s release, the British Council said: “We have always refuted the original allegations against macaws.

“We are very proud of her work in our London office as an arts programs officer working to promote a better understanding and appreciation of Iranian culture in the UK.”

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