Thursday, 21 Jan 2021

Zaghari-Ratcliffe a victim of Iran’s hostage diplomacy, says husband

Beirut: Britain needs to recognise Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention in Iran as a state-sponsored hostage-taking, her husband said the day after Tehran released a jailed Australian-British academic in an apparent prisoner swap.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer at Melbourne University, was released from Tehran’s Evin prison on Wednesday after serving over two years of a 10-year sentence for spying. Australia refused to confirm she was freed in a prisoner exchange, saying only that her release followed "diplomatic engagement with the Iranian government".

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is detained in an Iranian prison.Credit:AP

Thailand said on Thursday it had repatriated three Iranians involved in a failed 2012 bombing targeting Israeli diplomats. While Thai officials declined to call it a swap, Iranian state television showed the garlanded men being hailed as returning heroes in the same segment as footage of Moore-Gilbert departing Tehran airport.

"It's very certainly transactional from their point of view," said Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife has been detained for four-and-a-half years.

The British-Iranian mother of one from north London was jailed on charges of trying to overthrow the government, something she and her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, strongly deny. But the 42-year-old's release has been tied to repayment of a long-standing £400 million ($725 million) debt that London owes Tehran.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a University of Melbourne scholar on the Middle East appears on a 2017 video by the Modern Middle East.Credit:AP

The UK has acknowledged it owes the debt – which arose over non-delivery of 1500 Chieftain tanks ordered and paid for by the Shah of Iran shortly before his 1979 overthrow – but says repayment must not breach sanctions.

However, Ratcliffe said that the UK's position of not linking repayment of the debt to the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe ignored the reality of her case. "They picked her up for that money and they have made it increasingly clear about what that's about," he said.

He called on the UK to acknowledge that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was a victim of hostage diplomacy.

"I think it would protect her and protect others in the future to call Iran out for taking hostages," he said. "Hostage taking and torture is no different than any other kind of abuse, you do not protect people from abuse by euphemising it away."

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said: "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."

Currently on temporary home release in Tehran, Zaghari-Ratcliffe will complete her sentence in March. But an Iranian court issued a new charge against her in September.

"The British government preference seems to be to wait for the other side to be less unreasonable. Well, we've been waiting a long time," said Ratcliffe.

Telegraph, London

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