UK

No apology after Nazanin tells PM she lived in ‘shadow of his words’

The Prime Minister was seemingly “shocked” after the British-Iranian dual national told him she had lived for years in the “shadow of his words” during their first meeting since her release.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and husband, Richard Ratcliffe, took their daughter, Gabriella, and constituency MP, Tulip Siddiq, to the discussions in Downing Street on Friday.

The mother was freed in March along with fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori after the UK agreed to settle a historic £400 million debt dating to the 1970s.

But Mr Johnson had been accused of lengthening her ordeal when, as foreign secretary in 2017, he wrongly claimed she had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016.

Speaking to reporters in Downing Street, Mr Ratcliffe said his wife challenged the Prime Minister on “why did it take so long” to secure her release.

She also told him the “massive impact” his comments had on her, even saying the Iranian authorities brought Mr Johnson’s words up during interrogation shortly before her release.

Asked if the Prime Minister apologised, Mr Ratcliffe responded: “Not specifically.”

The PM looked “quite shocked” when Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe told him she had lived in the “shadow of his words” for “the best part of four-and-a-half years”, Ms Siddiq said.

She told broadcasters: “I was really proud of Nazanin. She was sitting next to the Prime Minister, and she told him very clearly and categorically that his words had had a big impact on her and that she had lived in the shadow of his words for the best part of four-and-a-half years.

“I have to say the Prime Minister looked quite shocked, I think, when she said that, but I was really proud she did say that because she wanted to make it clear to him that she’s happy now, she’s grateful, she appreciates the fact that she is home now, but there was a time when the words had a big impact.”

The Prime Minister “enjoyed” meeting Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe in what her family said was not an “abrasive” event.

Ms Siddiq told reporters: “I think he enjoyed meeting her, I think he found it interesting and I think it wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before, in a sense.”

Mr Ratcliffe said: “I don’t think it was an abrasive meeting. We are here in happier circumstances than in previous meetings. I’m glad we are.”

Mr Ratcliffe said there was not necessarily “closure” for the family after the meeting, as he reiterated his call for Mr Johnson to give evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the handling of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

“I did mean it when I said, please do try and give evidence. He said he would look at it,” Mr Ratcliffe said.

“I think he has been a part of our case in different roles, it is important his perspective is shared honestly with Parliament.”

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