First Published: 2017-11-10

British father fights for wife's release in Iran
More than 19 months since his wife was arrested at Tehran airport, Richard Ratcliffe says all he wants is to reunite with his wife and daughter in time for holidays.
Middle East Online

National attention has fallen on Ratcliffe's case in recent days.

LONDON - A British accountant fighting for his wife's release from an Iranian jail is now at the centre of a diplomatic storm that has led to calls for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to resign.

More than 19 months since his wife was arrested at Tehran airport, Richard Ratcliffe said that all he wanted was to be reunited with his wife and daughter in time for the holidays.

"The best case scenario is to get her home by Christmas," said the softly-spoken 42-year-old.

Dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been jailed on sedition charges while her daughter Gabriella, now three, had her British passport confiscated and has since been living with her grandparents in Iran.

"We're obviously a very truncated, broken up family at the moment," said Ratcliffe, who speaks to his wife by phone and has Skype conversations with his daughter.

Via Skype "we can cuddle each other and share food and cups of tea," he said.

National attention has fallen on his case in recent days, after Johnson last week said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran, comments which the Iranian judiciary has since used to justify her detention.

Her family and employer the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a media charity where she worked as a project manager, have insisted that she was on holiday in Iran.

Johnson has said his words were misinterpreted.

"Suddenly what is just our family's story gets embroiled in much higher levels of politics, and (I'm) thinking, 'gosh, I'm out of my depth here'," said Ratcliffe.

An editorial in The Times on Friday said Johnson's position was "vulnerable" and would become "untenable" if the Iranian judiciary were to use his remarks to justify further detention of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

- Christmas drawing -

But Ratcliffe has refused to get involved in the scandal over Johnson's remarks, keeping a measured tone in pushing for the British government to help secure her release.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016 and initially spent months in solitary confinement but has been able to speak to her husband once a week since April this year.

She now also receives twice-weekly prison visits from their daughter.

"They coloured in a picture of a reindeer at the last visit, because they're talking about Christmas and going home for Christmas," said Ratcliffe.

Gabriella, he explained, has requested a pair of red shoes from Father Christmas.

The little girl "barely" speaks English any more, her father said, except for the phrases: "Daddy I like you", "See you tomorrow" and "I miss you".

The family is now waiting to see whether Iranian authorities will approve Zaghari-Ratcliffe's application for early release, which her husband said could happen in two weeks.

She is, however, facing further charges carrying a possible 16-year prison sentence, which her legal team is seeking to have quashed.

A new trial would put the family in a "much darker place", Ratcliffe said.

But he remains hopeful that the momentum gained in recent days will lead to her release, and give his family the chance to make up for the time they have lost.

"We can't get that back, what we can do is get her home as soon as possible and then rebuild that family unit and cherish what we will have again."


Pro-Turkish forces loot Afrin

Israel arrests French consulate worker for gun smuggling

Syrian regime retakes two towns from Ghouta rebels

Saudi crown prince says his country to seek nuclear bomb if Iran does

Iraqis flock to flea market for relics of bygone era

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting

36 jihadists killed in Egypt’s Sinai

Israel prepares to demolish Jerusalem attacker's home

Arab women artists in diaspora focus on identity and loss

Tunisia’s Central Bank targets inflation but may hurt growth prospects

Libya’s health system reflects a larger humanitarian crisis

Israel blasts Gaza underground tunnel

Abu Dhabi awards France's Total stakes in oil concessions

Erdogan says Afrin city centre under ‘total’ control

Egypt tries to contain Sudan but challenges, suspicions remain

US defence secretary presses Oman on Iran weapons smuggling

Hamas shutters mobile firm after Gaza attack on PM

Israel punishes family members of West Bank attacker

Syria opposition says UN 'failed to prevent' Assad 'crimes'

UK tries to soothe Egyptian anger over mob attack death

Hundreds of thousands flee in dual Syria assaults

Turkish Cypriots vow to stand firm in gas dispute

Intensifying assaults in Syria spark dual evacuations

Tearful reunions, uncertain fates for Syrians fleeing Ghouta

Iran deal signatories meet as Trump deadline looms

Thirty years on, Kurds remember Halabja massacre

Air India says will fly over Saudi airspace to Tel Aviv

UN chief calls for end to Lebanese 'meddling' in Syria

Turkey seeks jail for journalists opposing government

UN says civilians trapped, used as 'human shields' in Afrin

Iran, Russia, Turkey hold Syria talks in Astana

Civilians killed in Turkish fire on Syria's Afrin

US Defense Secretary says Iran 'mucking around' in Iraq elections

No room for debate in Egyptian elections

Thousands flee Syria's Ghouta after month-long bombardment

Israel closes migrant detention centre in expulsion plan

UN security council says Yemen conditions 'devastating' for civilians

Crown prince says if Iran gets nuclear bomb, so will Saudi Arabia

UNRWA chief says agency needs urgent funds by summer

Turkey to host Syria summit on April 4 with Russia, Iran

Turkey journalists protest for colleague after 500 days in prison

UN says Syria regime forces using rape as wide-scale weapon