Boris Johnson agrees to meet husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – the Briton jailed for ‘spying’ in Iran – as her daughter spends Christmas with her father for the first time in four years
- PM Boris Johnson has agreed to meet Richard Ratcliffe about his jailed wife
- Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent four years in jail in Iran over spying charges
- As foreign secretary, Johnson claimed Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was a journalist
- The Iranian regime used Johnson’s claims as justification for her jail sentence
Perched on her father’s knee as she shows off her cuddly toy, Gabriella looks like any little girl getting into the festive spirit.
But Christmas at home in the UK will be a bittersweet one for the five-year-old.
For while she will enjoy the holiday with her father for the first time in four years, her mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will spend it behind bars in Iran.
Richard Ratcliffe, pictured is spending the first Christmas with his daughter Gabrielle since his wife Nazanin was jailed in 2016 over allegations she was a British spy. Gabriella, five, returned to the UK in October without her mother who remains in a Tehran prison
Mr Ratcliffe said: ‘We’ve had three Christmases apart. They’ve been non-Christmases. I didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t really want to feel it’
This year British-Iranian charity worker Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was imprisoned under false spying charges, will mark her fourth Christmas and 41st birthday in jail.
Yesterday it emerged Boris Johnson has agreed to meet her husband Richard Ratcliffe – but the accountant says he has little cause for hope.
‘We’ve had three Christmases apart. They’ve been non-Christmases. I didn’t want to celebrate. I didn’t really want to feel it,’ said Mr Ratcliffe, 44.
‘This one is different. We will be celebrating. But Nazanin won’t be there.’
Gabriella, who had not seen her father since her mother was jailed in 2016, moved back to the UK from Tehran in October.
Mr Ratcliffe said his daughter is settling in well and had been for a trial first day at school this week before she starts in January. He said her English is improving after forgetting much of it in Iran, and that she insists on using her English name, rather than her Persian one Gisou, to help her fit in better.
Mr Ratcliffe said his daughter is due to start school in January having had a few trial days last term. He is preparing to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson about his wife’s continuing plight
But he said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was struggling without her daughter’s visits. ‘Nazanin is up and down,’ he said. ‘Immediately after Gabriella came back she was really low and I wasn’t sure she would make it to Christmas without doing something, but she has stabilised a bit more.’
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike for the third time this summer, but has had all medical treatment withdrawn since.
Johnson, pictured earlier this week in the House of Commons mistakenly described Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a journalist – a charge Iran used to justify her imprisonment
She suffers episodes of extreme depression, her husband said, and was taken to a psychiatric hospital in chains earlier this year.
‘Nazanin hoped to be out by Christmas, then by Easter, then in time for Gabriella’s first day at school. As each one gets missed there’s a mourning or grieving that comes,’ Mr Ratcliffe said.
‘I told the Foreign Office I think we’ll be fine until Christmas. I don’t think it’ll start the day afterwards, but we’ll be extraordinarily lucky to get to March without something happening. We need to give her hope. Unfortunately, the Government is doing nothing.’ Mr Ratcliffe revealed the Prime Minister has agreed to meet to discuss his wife’s detention.
The case has been a difficult one for Mr Johnson after he mistakenly described Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a journalist – a charge Iran used to justify her imprisonment.
But Mr Ratcliffe said Mr Johnson now has the power to bring his wife home, adding: ‘It needs the heft of a prime minister to say, “Listen, I’m going to sort this now”.’
Mr Johnson said the charity worker’s case was of the ‘utmost importance’ and he had personally pressed the Iranian authorities.
A Government spokesman said it ‘repeatedly raises’ Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case with Iran.
Mr Ratcliffe said Mr Johnson now has the power to bring his wife home, adding: ‘It needs the heft of a prime minister to say, “Listen, I’m going to sort this now”’
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