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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe being used as ‘bargaining chip’ as tensions with Iran grow

Charity worker spends a week handcuffed to hospital bed

24 July, 2019 — By Richard Osley

FOREIGN Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he cannot guarantee that Iran will not link tensions in the region with the locking up of West Hampstead charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The 41-year-old, who is at the centre of an international campaign for her freedom, spent a week handcuffed to a bed in a mental health unit before being returned to the Evin prison in Tehran, as concerns for her welfare increased once more.

She has been held for three years on vague spying charges after being stopped on her way home from a family holiday with her young daughter.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq raised the case once more with Mr Hunt in the House of Commons on Tuesday, against a backdrop of increasingly strained relations between Britain and Iran.

It follows the seizure of the Iranian-flagged oil tanker, Grace 1, in Gibraltar, and the capture of a British-owned ship in the Gulf,

Ms Siddiq said: “With the best will in the world, [Mr Hunt] must be aware that the Iranians have previously used my constituent as a bargaining chip and that the supreme leader promised retribution over Grace 1.”

Tulip Siddiq

She said the government needed to make sure “this situation does not mean my constituent’s chances of freedom are ended.”

It is the second time in a week that Ms Siddiq has brought Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case to the Commons, and comes on the heels of a 10-day hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy by her husband, Richard Ratcliffe.

Mr Hunt has previously guarded against connecting the ship seizures to her detention. He told MPs: “I always try to avoid linkage between the two cases because inevitably with a country such as Iran, our relations go up and down, and I would never want an innocent woman to suffer as a result of the ebb and flow of those relations.”

But he added: “Of course, I cannot guarantee that Iran does not seek to make that link itself.”
Mr Hunt lost the Conservative Party leadership contest to Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson, the new prime minister, has previously been accused of making Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s plight worse by inaccurately telling a parliamentary committee she was training journalists during her time in Tehran.

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