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Ratcliffe down after meeting about securing wife's release from Iran

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By Josephine Joly  with AFP, AP
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Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, holds up a picture of his wife as he continues his hunger strike outside Britain's Foreign Office on Nov. 11, 2021.
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, holds up a picture of his wife as he continues his hunger strike outside Britain's Foreign Office on Nov. 11, 2021.   -   Copyright  David Cliff / AP

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of a British-Iranian dual national detained for more than five years in Iran, says he was left depressed after a meeting with the UK government about securing her release.

He met UK minister James Cleverly on Thursday after British officials held talks with Iran's deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

He said the ministers' meeting had been "useless", as British and Iranian officials appeared to have made little – if any – progress on securing his Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release.

“If I’m honest, quite a depressing meeting," Ratcliffe said of his meeting with Cleverly. “I had hoped there would have been some kind of a breakthrough and recognition in the meeting with Iran — maybe that will be happening away from us but I don’t have any hopes.

"The question is are you moving forward on those issues? And what are you doing to discourage them from keeping on playing games? Well, we heard nothing on one hand and we heard nothing on the other," Ratcliffe added.

Ratcliffe has been on a hunger strike since October 24 outside Britain's Foreign Office in an effort to ratchet up the pressure on the British government to secure her release.

It is feared Zaghari-Ratcliffe will return to prison, which she had been allowed to leave with an electronic bracelet in March 2020 amid coronavirus concerns.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested during a visit to her family in Tehran in 2016 and accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, which she and her supporters deny.

She served five years in prison after being taken into custody, but she was sentenced to another year of imprisonment in May this year on charges of spreading "propaganda against the system" for having participated in a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.

The verdict includes a one-year travel ban, meaning she wouldn’t be able to leave Iran until 2023.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and was arrested as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family.

Rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual-nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West, something Tehran denies.

Ratcliffe believes his wife is being used as "leverage" by Tehran over the UK's failure to pay an outstanding £400m (€472m) debt to Iran.