Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and family meet Prime Minister in Downing Street

MP Tulip Siddiq said the British-Iranian dual national deserved ‘to hear directly’ from Boris Johnson why it took so long to get her home.

13 May 2022

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family have met the Prime Minister in Downing Street for the first time since her release from her six-year detention in Iran.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who also attended on Friday, said the British-Iranian dual national deserved “to hear directly” from Boris Johnson why it took so long to get her home.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was freed in March along with fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori after the UK agreed to settle a historic £400 million debt dating to the 1970s.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said earlier: “We’ve said previously that the Prime Minister was open to meeting both Nazanin as well as Mr Ashoori.

“It is something we have been trying to arrange. I’ve set out that he is going to welcome her to Downing Street to discuss her ordeal in Iran.”

The official said the engagement was “something we’ve worked together on to make happen”.

The meeting was the first time the two had come face to face since Mr Johnson, then foreign secretary, wrongly claimed in 2017 that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016.

Four days later, she was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing, where his comments were cited as proof that she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

After facing a sustained backlash over the remarks, Mr Johnson said he was sorry “if (he had) inadvertently caused any further anguish”.

Asked whether Mr Johnson would be apologising to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the spokesman replied: “I think it is important to remember that it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her unfair detention, and the decision to release her was always in their gift.

“However, I would point back to the Prime Minister’s words, his answers to questions on this before and he has previously apologised for his comments in 2017.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe meets PM
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and daughter Gabriella in Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ms Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s constituency, said: “I was pleased to be invited to Number 10 along with my constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family. I know her seven-year-old daughter Gabriella was particularly excited to be meeting the Prime Minister.

“After six long years of unjust and unlawful imprisonment in Iran, Nazanin deserves to hear directly from the Prime Minister about why it took so long to get her home.”

The MP had said the continued detention of other British citizens, including Morad Tahbaz, would also be raised at the meeting.

“(The Prime Minister) has a responsibility to ensure that others do not have to endure the six years of torment that Nazanin was put through,” she said.

“I will also be submitting evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry on hostage-taking, which I hope will get the bottom of the Government’s abject failure in handling cases like Nazanin’s.

“Never again must the Government allow British citizens to be taken hostage with so little done to secure their release and so few reprisals for those responsible.”

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, will be leading an inquiry (House of Commons/PA)

It comes after an announcement last month that MPs are to stage an inquiry into the detention and release from Iran of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said it will take evidence on how their cases were handled by British officials as part of a wider investigation into “state-level hostage situations”.

Following their return, both have been critical of the failure of the Foreign Office (FCDO) to secure their freedom sooner.

Announcing the inquiry, the committee’s chairman, Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, said their return was “long overdue” and that they were right to seek answers as to what happened.

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