‘First ripple of freedom’ for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as Iran postpones case

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The husband of imprisoned Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has hailed the “first ripple of freedom” as a new court case against his wife was postponed.

Richard Ratcliffe said the move came in the wake of the Foreign Secretary’s two-day visit to Iran where Boris Johnson has been seeking her release.

He said his family have spent the weekend “watching closely with hope” while Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she could now “see some light”.

On Sunday, Mr Johnson held talks with president Hassan Rouhani, where they “both spoke forthrightly”, and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday.

“I said I thought that if the Foreign Secretary had a good Saturday, we might have a good Sunday, with a court case postponed,” Mr Ratcliffe said in a statement.

“This weekend we had our first ripple of freedom, with the postponement of Nazanin’s new court case.

“Of course who knows what lies ahead, the past 20 months have had plenty of false turns – but my hope is that the ripple in the days ahead might become a full change of tide.

“My hope today is as Nazanin once wrote: Freedom feels one day closer, that Christmas dream remains.”

Mr Ratcliffe said just a month ago he was “cursing” Mr Johnson but that “to date he has been as good as his word”.

“He did get to Iran, he did get there before her court case, and that did make a difference,” he added.

Boris Johnson in discussions with the Iranians (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
Boris Johnson in discussions with the Iranians (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

“Of course, one swallow doesn’t make a Christmas – Nazanin is not yet on a plane. But it is good to have at least a swallow in the sky.”

The news came as it remained unclear whether Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be taken back to court on Sunday following threats to increase her sentence by five years after Mr Johnson incorrectly told a parliamentary committee that she had been in Iran to train journalists.

Mother-of-one Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show her baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.

She is currently serving a five-year sentence over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government.

In a statement, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she could “see some light today, more than before”.

“The court, the imprisonment emerged all of a sudden out of the blue, so I hope it can disappear out of the blue also – if there is enough will,” she said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said there have been two or three times before when she felt like she might be getting close to freedom but was ultimately left disappointed.

“This time, again it feels close, but I am not planning it, not setting a date for myself,” she added.

Mr Ratcliffe said Mr Johnson also used his visit to Iran to meet with the family of his wife – spending 45 minutes with them on Saturday evening.

He promised them he would do his best to solve the case and that he would make strong representations during his meeting with President Rouhani and had discussed her in every meeting so far, the Free Nazanin Campaign said.

Mr Ratcliffe said he is expecting a fuller debrief from the Foreign Office on Mr Johnson’s efforts once he returns from the region, either on Monday or Tuesday.

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