Iran’s release of academic shows ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband says

'It's definitely a good thing for all of us that deals are being done,' Richard Ratcliffe says

Andy Gregory
Thursday 26 November 2020 01:10
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<p>The British-Iranian dual national now faces fresh charges</p>

The British-Iranian dual national now faces fresh charges

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said that Iran’s release of a British-Australian academic in an apparent prisoner swap shows there is “light at the end of the tunnel” in the fight for his wife’s freedom.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer at Melbourne University, was apprehended by Iranian authorities at Tehran Airport after attending a conference in 2018 and sentenced to 10 years in prison over espionage charges, which she strenuously denies.

The Middle East scholar was being held at the same notorious Tehran prison — Evin — as Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, when Iranian state media said on Wednesday that she had been released in an apparent exchange for three as-yet-unnamed Iranian nationals detained abroad.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker with dual British-Iranian nationality, has been detained in the country since 2016 after being sentenced for plotting to overthrow the Iranian government. The former BBC and Thomson Reuters employee also denies these allegations. 

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said on Wednesday: “It's really good news ... it was a nice shock and Nazanin was really happy when I told her because she hadn't seen the news.

“I think probably on a selfish level there's always a kind of a bittersweet wondering when it'll be our turn. Of course there isn't a queue, these things happen in a random order.

“The reality is that whenever there's movement, there's hope.”

He added: “I don't know what it means for us, it's definitely a good thing for Kylie and it's definitely a good thing for all of us that deals are being done.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport while travelling to introduce her young daughter Gabriella to her parents in April 2016.

She was later afforded diplomatic protection by the UK government, which argues that she is innocent and that her treatment by Iran failed to meet obligations under international law.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released from prison on furlough in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but remains under house arrest, and has been subjected to a fresh trial on charges of spreading propaganda against the regime — just months from her expected release date in March. 

Iranian authorities have told her she will be returned to Evin prison following the hearings, which have been delayed. 

Boris Johnson denounced Iran’s decision to bring fresh charges — which Mr Ratcliffe described as “spurious” and said appeared based on the same evidence presented when his wife was convicted in 2016 — as “indefensible and unacceptable”.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “All I can see on our case is either no news or bad news, but that was also true in Kylie's case, we either only saw bad news until this afternoon and it was two years of horrendous cruelty in a terrible situation and great dignity from her and her family.

“Now it looks like it's over and she can begin to heal, they can begin to heal.

“It can happen, and I think it's important. She shows there's light at the end of the tunnel and that's a really good reminder for me and for Nazanin when feeling really glum.”

He added: “Realistically, people come home. We could come home soon. Not to say we will, but we could.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the UK government should be “openly learning” how other countries have successfully brought people home from Iran, including the Australian authorities.

“We only get to see the bad stuff so I think we have to always prepare for the worst, hope that the government pulls something out of the hat and that she's home for Christmas or is at least home in March, but fully expect the closer we get to the end of her sentence the more likely we get bad news and it gets extended,” he said.

Amnesty International UK also called on Westminster to put pressure on Iranian authorities to release other detainees.

UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab — who has condemned Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment as “unacceptable and unjustified” — welcomed the news of Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release and return to her family in Australia.

“I call on the Iranian government to release all the remaining dual British nationals arbitrarily detained and allow them to reunite with their loved ones,” Mr Raab said.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's MP Tulip Siddiq added: “Now let's make this a Christmas reality for Nazanin too.”

Additional reporting by PA

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