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Liz Truss failed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, says husband

Richard Ratcliffe says the foreign secretary and frontrunner to be the new prime minister had let down his wife by not pursuing her captors
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard arrive for a meeting at 10 Downing Street in London on 13 May 2022 (AFP)

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the UK-Iranian charity worker who spent more than five years in jail in Iran on accusations of spying, has hit out at Britain's likely next prime minister, Liz Truss, saying she had failed to hold to account those responsible for his wife's incarceration.

Richard Ratcliffe acknowledged that Truss, who is currently foreign secretary, had managed to secure his wife's release after paying Iran an outstanding debt that had long been a bone of contention between Tehran and the UK. However, he said Truss had not followed through on a promise to impose sanctions on individuals in Iran who had been involved in the affair.

Writing for the Guardian, Ratcliffe noted that two officials involved in the "hostage taking" had been revealed during a debate in parliament on Thursday: Hossein Taeb, former head of the intelligence operation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour, a journalist with the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) outlet.

"The names came from evidence identifying 10 Iranian officials submitted to Truss last September, requesting that they be sanctioned for their role in Iran’s hostage industry," he wrote. "Despite having had that file for nine months, Truss has not sanctioned these individuals. The Foreign Office regularly tells us it is still studying the file."

He accused the UK of being "sanguine" about Iran's repeated detention of foreign citizens and what he called the Islamic Republic's "hostage diplomacy".

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"The UK still resists recognising Nazanin as a hostage. [Foreign Office] officials still went along with her being forced to confess," he wrote. "We still await answers on who authorised this and why."

Repeated failings

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the philanthropic arm of the Thomson Reuters news and data agency, was arrested in Tehran on a visit to family in 2016. She was released in March, after the British government confirmed it paid a longstanding £393m debt owed by the UK to Iran since the 1970s.

Since her release, both Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband have been critical of the government's handling of the issue, both in terms of securing her release and the aftermath.

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Truss is currently one of two MPs in a contest for leadership of the UK's ruling Conservative Party.

She and former chancellor Rishi Sunak are aiming to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister, after he was forced to resign in the wake of a series of scandals.

While he was himself foreign secretary in 2017, Johnson provoked a controversy after he wrongly claimed at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been "teaching people journalism" in Iran. The claim, which he later acknowledged was a "mistake", led to her being brought before a court in Iran again and accused of "spreading propaganda against the regime". 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was implicitly scathing of both Johnson and Truss when she returned to the UK in March.

"I don't agree with Richard [her husband] on thanking the foreign secretary, because I have seen five foreign secretaries over the course of the six years… how many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home, five?" she told a news conference.

“I think the answer is clear. I cannot be happier than this that I’m here. But also, this should have happened six years ago.”

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