UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

Richard Ratcliffe (R) urged Boris Johnson to make sure the UK is “tougher” with the regime, while pushing for the release of his detained wife. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 25 January 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson urged to be ‘tougher’ on Iran

  • Richard Ratcliffe says his jailed wife is ‘being held hostage’ by Tehran
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison

LONDON: The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed by Tehran over charges of espionage has urged the UK to be “tougher” with the regime.

Richard Ratcliffe made the comments after a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London on Thursday. 

Ratcliffe said there had been “no breakthrough” in discussions between the two nations to secure her release, and his wife was being used as a “chess piece” by Iran. 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison for “plotting to topple the Iranian government.” She and her family maintain that she was in the country to visit relatives.Speaking outside the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street, Ratcliffe told reporters that the meeting had been warm in nature, but hinted that the government was not doing enough.

“The prime minister was there, the foreign secretary was there, (we) talked quite openly about having tried a number of different things to get Nazanin home,” he said. 

“We pressed him (Johnson) to be brave. I want him to push forward on improving relations. You need to be imposing a cost on Iran for holding innocent people as leverage, you’ve got to be brave there as well. The government doesn’t always say it, but in my view, Nazanin is being held hostage.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Arab News.

The Downing Street meeting comes ahead of an impending court case over a long-term trade dispute between the UK and Iran, with London accused of owing Tehran debts over an arms deal from the 1970s.

Labour Party MP Tulip Siddiq, who represents the parliamentary seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family live, called on the government to settle the debt in order to help facilitate her release.

But MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, told the BBC that the issue was “extraordinarily difficult.” 

He suggested that setting a precedent of capitulating on legal disputes in return for the release of UK nationals could entice foreign governments and groups to threaten other UK citizens abroad. “The risk that would pose to British citizens traveling abroad would be very considerable,” he said.

Johnson was blamed by many in 2017, when he was foreign secretary, for having worsened Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation in Iran when, in a statement to the House of Commons, he claimed that he had been briefed that she was in Tehran training journalists. 

Despite claims from other politicians, her family and her employer, the Thompson Reuters Foundation, that he had been misinformed, the statement was subsequently used as evidence against her in court.


Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

Updated 39 min 54 sec ago

Pakistan shuts schools, suspends Iran flights to curb coronavirus spread

  • Latin America sees its first confirmed case of coronavirus in Brazil
  • Two countries in Europe - Estonia and Germany - have announced on Thursday their first cases of the virus

ISLAMABAD/RIO DE JANEIRO: Pakistan on Thursday shut schools in several areas and suspended flights to and from Iran to try to stop the spread of new coronavirus, after reporting its first cases of the infection, officials said.
The South Asian nation bordering China and Iran, both of which have been hit hard by the virus, reported its first two cases on Wednesday.
Both people had recently travelled to Iran as part of large groups of pilgrims from Pakistan’s Shi’ite Muslim community. Health officials have said both were “stable.”
In Britain, the number of coronavirus infections has risen to 15 cases. Elsewhere, two countries in Europe - Estonia and Germany - have announced on Thursday their first cases of the virus.
Latin America meanwhile saw its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus spreading worldwide when Brazil’s government announced that a 61-year-old man who traveled to Italy this month had the virus.
The Brazilian man had spent two weeks in northern Italy’s Lombardy region on a work trip, where he contracted the contagious virus, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.
“Our health care system has already undergone grave respiratory epidemics before,” Brazil’s Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said in a press conference. “We will get through this situation, investing in science, research and clear information.”
Since the COVID-19 virus began to spread throughout the world from China, Brazil and other countries in the region have registered dozens of suspected cases, all of which previously had been discarded following tests.
According to Brazil’s Health Ministry, the man began to show symptoms compatible with the illness, such as a dry cough, throat pain and flu symptoms. Lombardy is the center of the outbreak in Italy, and there have been hundreds of confirmed cases there as well as several deaths.
Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein Institute, where the man received medical attention, carried out respiratory tests, and the Adolfo Lutz Institute in the same city carried out the subsequent test confirming the virus The man was in stable condition and in isolation at home in Sao Paulo.


Brazil’s national health agency Anvisa has been working to map all contact the man had with others, and on Tuesday requested the manifest of the flight he took to investigate other possible cases.
The Health Ministry said that the man received some 30 family members at his home after returning to Sao Paulo on Feb. 21. Those people are under observation, as are with passengers from the plane.

In Sydney, Australia’s prime minister said the country considered the new coronavirus to be a pandemic Thursday, going a step beyond the WHO as he extended a travel ban on visitors from China.

Announcing a national emergency response plan to the contagion, Scott Morrison said he was considering “additional measures” for monitoring travelers arriving in the country.

“We’re effectively operating now on the basis that there is one — a pandemic,” Morrison said. “We believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us.” Australia has reported 22 infections, but none that were contracted or passed from person-to-person inside the country.

Morrison’s warning comes as he scrambles to burnish his leadership credentials after fierce criticism of his handling of the months-long bushfire crisis. His government is also embroiled in a deepening political scandal over the funneling of taxpayer money into areas his coalition targeted in last year’s election.

Meanwhile, South Korea reported 171 more cases of the new virus on Thursday, bringing its total number of infections to 1,766.