Liz Truss to meet hunger-striking Richard Ratcliffe, peers told
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A meeting between Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, and Richard Ratcliffe, the hunger-striking husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is due to take place on Thursday, peers have heard.
Mr Ratcliffe this week began a hunger strike outside the Foreign Office headquarters in Westminster to highlight his wife’s situation after five years of incarceration in Iran.
In the House of Lords, Labour Lord Collins of Highbury had asked whether Mr Ratcliffe’s assessment that the Government was pursuing a “policy of waiting” on his wife’s situation was correct.
Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon replied: “Of course we are very much aware of Richard Ratcliffe’s situation and of course… he has begun a hunger strike.
“I can inform him that tomorrow (Thursday) the Foreign Secretary (Liz Truss) will be meeting with Richard to discuss the issue specifically and I know she has been very seized of the situation since her appointment.”
Lord Ahmad added that Iran “still fails to recognise the dual-nationality status” of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s legal team have said they believe she is being held by the Iranian government because of a £400 million historic debt Iran claims from the UK.
Peers asked the Government why it did not consider paying Iran the money it claims, including crossbencher Baroness Butler-Sloss, who called the move a compromise.
Labour peer Lord Dubs said: “If the Iranians believe that we owe them £400 million and believe we have promised that money will be paid, surely without excusing the Iranian government for any things they are doing to their hostages, surely the Iranians have got a sense that we haven’t been straight with them?”
Lord Ahmad replied he could not go into the details of the legal case between the UK and Iran, but did confirm to peers that the next hearing in court between Iran and the UK would be in April 2022.
“We have been very clear that Nazanin and indeed others who are held should be returned,” he added.
Baroness Wheatcroft criticised Boris Johnson for “undoubtedly” worsening Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s position in Iran when in post as Foreign Secretary he said she had been “teaching journalism” in the country – a statement her family say is untrue, as she was on holiday in Iran with her daughter.
The crossbench peer said: “When he was Foreign Secretary, the man who is now our Prime Minister misspoke about the reason for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe being in Iran.
“Should he not now be taking personal responsibility for getting her out as those words undoubtedly worsened her position?”
Lord Ahmad said the Prime Minister took the situation of all British detainees in Iran “very seriously”.