Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says imprisonment 'will always haunt me' as she says her release should not have taken five changes of UK foreign secretary

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says the painful experience of incarceration “will always haunt me” as she criticised the fact it took five changes of foreign secretary in the UK before her release was secured.

Speaking in public for the first time at a press conference following her release from detention in Iran, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe said her reunion with her husband and daughter has been “precious” and “glorious”, but that her release from detention in Iran should have happened six years ago.

The British-Iranian mother looked relaxed and happy as she paid tribute to her “amazing, wonderful” husband Richard Ratcliffe.

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She thanked him for “tirelessly” campaigning for her freedom, while he said the family are looking forward to a “new chapter”.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq at her first meeting with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (right) who she campaigned for six years for her release from detention in Iran. Picture: Tulip Siddiq/PA Wire
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The couple were joined by seven-year-old daughter Gabriella, who sat in the front row at Portcullis House in central London.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained on April 3, 2016 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday visit with Gabriella to her parents, thanked those who campaigned for her release, saying she was “powerless” in prison.

The 43-year-old landed back in Britain on Thursday after the UK finally agreed to settle a £400 million debt dating back to the 1970s.

During the press conference, she criticised the UK Government for the length of time it took to secure her release.

Referencing her husband thanking the Government a few moments earlier, she said: “I do not really agree with him on that level.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she had seen five foreign secretaries over the course of six years, adding: “That is unprecedented given the politics of the UK. I love you Richard, respect whatever you believe, but I was told many, many times that: ‘Oh we’re going to get you home.’

“That never happened.”

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She said this resulted in her finding it difficult to place trust in them, adding: “I mean, how many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five?”

Asked if she felt angry with the Government that it took so long to get her home, she said: “I think the answer is clear. I cannot be happier than this that I’m here.

“But also, this should have happened six years ago.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe told reporters: “I’m not going to live for the rest of my life with a grudge over the past six years.”

She said what happened to her was “cruel”, adding: “This moment is so glorious for me.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said it took a “very, very long time” for politicians to sort it out.

Reflecting on her return to the UK, she said she was “overwhelmed” when she landed.

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“That moment was precious. I’ve been waiting for that moment for such a long time. And I was overwhelmed, specifically to get to know Gabriella and Richard after such a long time.

“It was a very, very emotional moment,” she said.

Speaking of her experience, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: “It will always haunt me. There is no other way around it. It will be with me.”

She said it is “very difficult” for her to talk about what she has been through.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she was told early on that there was something Iran wanted from Britain and that she would not be released until they got what they wanted.

“So, I didn’t know the details at the time. But I think it was the week two or week three that I was arrested, like six years ago, that they told me: ‘We want something off the Brits. We will not let you go until such time that we get it.’

“And they did keep their promise.”

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She urged an end to the detention of other dual nationals still held in Iran, saying without their release “the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete”.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe highlighted the continued detention of British-US national and wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, who, according to his family, has gone on hunger strike after he was taken back into prison after just 48 hours on furlough.

She told reporters at Portcullis House: “I believe that the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete as to such time that all of us who are unjustly detained in Iran are reunited with our families.

“To begin with Morad, but also the other dual nationals, members of religious groups, or prisoners of conscience who are … I mean, we do realise that if I have been in prison for six years there are so many other people we don’t know their names who have been suffering in prison in Iran.”

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