21 March 2022

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to address media for first time since leaving Iran

21 March 2022

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will face the media for the first time since her release from Iran at a press conference on Monday.

The 43-year-old, who landed back in Britain on Thursday after the UK finally agreed to settle a £400 million debt dating back to the 1970s, will be joined by her husband, Richard, in making statements at Portcullis House at midday.

Ahead of the conference, the couple will attend a private meeting with Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle, joined by their local MP, Tulip Siddiq, who long campaigned for her return.

Ms Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn and shadow economic secretary to the Treasury, said she was “emotional” meeting with the British-Iranian charity worker for the first time after six years of campaigning.

She told the PA news agency it was “quite weird” when the pair met in her constituency on Sunday because she had come to know Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s life “so intimately” from speaking to her as she went through her ordeal, but the pair had never previously met in person.

“We knew we were going to meet each other and she had called me to say that I was one of the first people she wanted to see”, Ms Siddiq said.

“So she came to West Hampstead and we hugged each other for ages and we were both quite tearful and it was quite emotional meeting her.

“She knew so much about me and I knew so much about her and she did thank me profusely but I said to her ‘it wasn’t me, this was a shared victory and everyone here in this community campaigned for you and, obviously, full credit to Richard – he was the one who was relentless in his campaigning’.”

Nazanin with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family Handout/PA) (PA Media)

Ms Siddiq said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “warm and motherly”, was “in every way, the way I imagined”, and talked of how she dreamt of doing simple things such as the school run and going to the park with her daughter, Gabriella, seven, while in solitary confinement.

“Surreal, completely surreal,” she added.

Ms Siddiq began campaigning for her release in April 2016 when Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband came to her to ask for help in securing his wife’s return.

The MP became a prominent voice calling for more to be done to have Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe brought back and supported Mr Ratcliffe as he campaigned.

Ms Siddiq was vocal during Mr Ratcliffe’s hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in central London in October and November 2021 and has frequently put pressure on the Government over the issue, raising Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention in the House of Commons.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori arrive at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, after they was freed from detention by Iranian authorities (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)

She said it was also the first time seeing Mr Ratcliffe reunited with his wife after years of being “defined by his solitary status”.

“It felt surreal because there he was, he wasn’t on his own, I cracked a joke with him, which was probably in poor taste but I’ve known him so long, I said ‘I see you’re not Billy no mates anymore’ and he was laughing because he knew exactly what I meant,” she said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed on security charges after being detained in 2016 at Imam Khomeini Airport following a holiday visit to Iran, where she introduced her daughter to her parents.

Fellow British-Iranian Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, was returned home at the same time as Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

He was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother in Tehran.

He was detained in Evin Prison for almost five years, having been accused of spying.

Both have consistently denied the allegations.

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