Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke to Liz Truss in a very ‘angry manner’ before her release

todayOctober 8, 2023 2

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke to Liz Truss in a very ‘angry manner’ before her release

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says former prime minister Liz Truss looked at her situation “from a different angle” because she was a mother.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was freed from prison in Iran in March 2022 after six years.

There were five foreign secretaries during the course of her imprisonment – Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab and Liz Truss.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is critical of the length of time it took the government to pay a £400m debt to Iran which helped secure her release.

Speaking to delegates at the Labour women’s conference in Liverpool today, she was asked by Shadow International Development Secretary Lisa Nandy “whether it’s significant that there was a long line of male foreign secretaries who didn’t secure your release, and then we had a female foreign secretary who within a few weeks had managed to do it?”

“I come from a country where women have almost no role in politics, I was a victim of that male led politics,” replied Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“The people who decided my future – apart from Liz Truss – were all men. I have a feeling that Liz Truss looked at my problem in a different way.

“Having said that we have got some very principled politicians – Jeremy Hunt was great, he was the one who gave me diplomatic protection, and who first acknowledged I was innocent. We also had Alastair Burt [a junior Foreign Office minister], who was an amazing politician.

“But then we had Liz Truss, she was a mother with two kids. Of course her decision was based on years of discussions and political communication, it didn’t happen all of a sudden – but I think she looked at my problem from a different angle that the male politicians hadn’t.”

She also said she regrets the tone she took with Ms Truss when she spoke to her on the phone before her release.

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“I talked to Liz Truss in a very, very angry manner. She called me on my birthday three months before I came home, and I was not kind on the phone. But that’s because I’d had so much of ‘we’re doing all we can’ with the previous ministers that I felt this is the same thing. I felt bad after.”

Asked what it was that kept her going during her time in prison, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said it was the solidarity among female prisoners she lived with after being released from nine months in solitary confinement. She described how seeing women able to laugh and socialise who had been detained for much longer periods gave her strength to get through her ordeal.

“In prison, all of us were in it together,” she said. “All of us had 10 minutes of phone calls every other day, all of us had the same rations, all of us had to clean the ward. We had the same rights, we ate together, we cooked together, we sat together. We helped each other.

“Also – I have a young child, and she was the source of inspiration for me every day, and I had to be a sane strong mother for her.”

She also described finding out about the scale of the campaign to secure her release giving her “power and strength”.

Her nine-year old daughter Gabrielle and husband Richard Ratcliffe, who campaigned tirelessly for her release, sat watching in the auditorium.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe also described Labour’s pledge to stand up for British nationals detained abroad protection as “very promising”.

“It’s very important to know you are going to be protected outside the borders of the UK,” argued Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has campaigned for more to be done to secure the release of people unfairly detained overseas. “That will be a very huge step to avoid other incidents of unfair detention, torture and being taken as a hostage.

“Obviously governments want to do deals with other countries- they don’t want to upset any other governments, they want to trade with them. I didn’t feel I was protected. I felt they resisted protecting me in a very obvious way. The first time I had a trial they refused to come to the court, the second time…they refused again, on the grounds – they said – that if we come to the court with you, that will make your situation worse. How can you put me in more trouble? The worst is that they will put me in prison, but I was already in prison. This will hopefully stop people being let down the way I felt.

“Within six months of my detention it was very clear what should be done for me to get home. But it took the government five and a half years to do what they should have done in the first place. It took them two years to recognise my rights had been violated -whereas it took the UN six months to recognise I’d been unlawfully detained.”

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy is due to announce his party’s plans for a special envoy for arbitrary detention and a new legal right for consular protection during his speech to the party’s conference in Liverpool on Monday, although the pledge to create the legal right for consular protection was originally made last year.

The party is aiming to replicate the success of the American Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs, Roger Carstens, who has been credited with a significant uptick in the number of unfairly detained US citizens released since his appointment in 2020.

“Too often the government’s efforts to secure the release of British nationals unjustly detained abroad have been arbitrary, haphazard, uncoordinated, lacking resource and lacking transparency,” Mr Lammy is due to say.

“The joy of having Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe among us this week is profound, but it’s also a sombre reminder of other Britons still awaiting justice.

“Labour’s pledge is simple. We will legislate for a new legal right to consular assistance and appoint a special envoy for Britons wrongly detained abroad. A Labour government will never forget that our first duty is to keep our own citizens safe.”

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Sir Keir Starmer has kicked off Labour’s Party conference in Liverpool.

A source close to the foreign secretary questioned the efficacy of Labour’s proposals.

“We provide consular assistance around the world 24/7 so it’s hard to see how these measures would improve that, bar words. A legal right would give no cover whatsoever in jurisdictions that didn’t and won’t recognise it. It’s a hollow promise.

“This government has secured the release of a number of British nationals from Governments that neither accept dual nationality, allow consular access or recognise British laws, and done so most often when the noise around such cases was least.

“Our officials work every single day on getting British nationals held abroad either consular access or release.”

In response to the Labour announcements a spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: [We] help British Nationals abroad affected by a range of circumstances.

In any given year, we support around 20,000 to 25,000 British nationals and their families.

“British nationals must follow the law in the country they visit and consult the travel advice so they are aware of the dangers present.

“Our travel advice is constantly updated to provide the most accurate information to British nationals overseas. While we will provide consular support when requested, we cannot change or overrule the local laws Brits will be subject to when travelling out of the UK.”

Written by: Newsroom

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