Napton couple still campaigning for release of cousin-in-law trapped in Iranian prison

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella
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A Napton couple are still pushing for the release of a relative imprisoned in Iran for more than a year on charges which are still not clear.

Alex and James Loftus are cousins-in-law to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in the country since April 2016 after her passport was taken.

Richard Ratcliffe with Nazanin

Richard Ratcliffe with Nazanin

A dual citizen of the UK and Iran, she travelled to the Middle-Eastern country to visit her family along with her daughter, Gabriella, who was 22 months old at the time.

She was at the airport returning to the UK when she was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Her and Gabriella’s passports were taken.

Although Gabriella is safe with her Iranian grandparents, Nazanin was sentenced to five years in prison. Iranian state-owned media accused her of ‘attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic’, despite her working for Thomson-Reuters Foundation which does not work in Iran.

She is being held in Evin prison in the nation’s capital, Tehran.

Alex said: “They put her into solitary confinement to begin with.

“Naz went on a hunger strike at one point, and it was only Gabriella that kept her going.”

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe started a petition to secure her release, which has received more than 910,000 signatures.

He believes Nazanin is being held as a ‘bargaining chip’ in exchange for an unpaid debt the UK owes to Iran.

Iran paid the UK £650 million for 1,500 tanks and 250 repair vehicles in 1979.

But after the Islamic Revolution, only a fraction of those tanks were delivered, and a European court has ordered the UK to pay Iran £400 million in compensation.

Iran has been accused of holding dual-nationals in the country without charge to put pressure on the UK to pay up.

In his blog about how Nazanin is coping, Richard said: “The criminal charges are a self-serving fabrication. Nazanin is part of a wave of foreigners taken to scare those at home, and fearing to preserve certain people’s powers.

“As another birthday approaches for Gabriella apart from her parents, it beggars belief that the full weight of a government priority would not have been able to get them home.”

The campaign has been brought back into the spotlight after Liberal Democrat candidate for Kenilworth and Southam Richard Dickson raised the campaign throughout the general election, including in his speech after the result for the constituency was announced.

During that speech, he said: “For Nazanin and her family, the priorities in life are not Brexit or how we get world-class public services.

“Important though those issues are, for Nazanin and her family, her priorities are when will she see her husband? How is her three-year-old daughter coping, and when will she be allowed to come home to the open, tolerant and united country that she loves?”

Anyone wishing to sign the petition should click here or visit freenazanin.com