Campaigners pushing for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were told by the Foreign Office not to make a “song and dance” about her plight, according to an MP.
Labor MP Tulip Siddiq, whose Hampstead and Kilburn constituency was where Zaghari-Ratcliffe lived before she was detained in Iran, said the decision by Nazanin’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, to be “so public and vocal” had been the right strategy.
After six years of detention, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was reunited with her family at RAF Brize Norton in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Siddiq revealed on Thursday: “The Foreign Office told us many times: ‘We could have got Nazanin out earlier if you didn’t make such a song and dance about this,’ but Richard disagreed with that.”
Siddiq said Ratcliffe’s approach has been vindicated.
“Throughout the course of the six years now I feel that it was probably the right strategy because I think the government did respond to the public pressure and I think they do respond to media pressure in particular,” she said.
“I think we probably did put pressure on especially the current prime minister by being so public and vocal and campaigning.”
She also said Foreign Office officials had been opposed to disclosing this week that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had had her UK passport returned to her by Iran.
“When I tweeted she got her British passport, the Foreign Office were very nervous about it,’ Siddiq said.
“Richard doesn’t have Twitter. He asked me to tweet it, because he thinks we need to be transparent about everything. And he thinks that even if the deal had failed through at the last moment, at least people would have known how close we got.”
Though the efforts of the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, were hailed for the breakthrough in complicated diplomatic talks with the Iranian government, concerns have been raised about the £400m sum paid by Britain that helped secure it.
James Cleverly, the UK minister for Europe and North America, called Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s return a “really uplifting” moment, and promised that the government had “taken every precaution to make sure” a separate £400m debt repayment made to Iran would be spent solely on humanitarian aid.
Cleverly said it was a historic debt that was treated separately – but that sanctions and international laws against funding terrorism and money laundering meant it had been complex to arrange.
“I can’t go into the details because of confidentiality agreements, but we have ensured that the money is for exclusively humanitarian purposes and that it abides by those international sanctions,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Cleverly refused to say if the US had agreed to the terms of the deal, following reports that the White House last summer effectively blocked the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another British-Iranian citizen, Anoosheh Ashoori, because of disagreement about a third detainee.
Morad Tahbaz, who is a joint Iranian, UK and US citizen, was also this week released from prison but remains confined to the country.
“We will continue to work to not just keep him out on furlough, but get him released – and obviously we’ll continue working closely with the Americans and everything to do with Iran,” said Cleverly.
After Boris Johnson was accused of cozying up to Middle Eastern dictators to push for them to increase oil supplies to help settle energy prices, Cleverly defended the prime minister’s trip to Saudi Arabia.
During the visit, the kingdom executed three men, just days after the largest state-sponsored killing in its history when 81 were subjected to capital punishment.
Cleverly said it was “ridiculous and distasteful” for any comparisons to be drawn with the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, who has clamped down on political protest in his own country after the invasion of Ukraine.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism