By Elizabeth Piper
LONDON -Aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe accused Britain and Iran on Monday of treating her like a political pawn, saying it should not have taken six years for London to secure her release from detention in Tehran.
Appearing at a news conference in parliament in London, the 44-year-old said she would always be haunted by her time in prison but would slowly work to rebuild her life with her daughter, 7, and husband away from the spotlight.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who holds both British and Iranian citizenship, returned to Britain last week from Iran, where she was held for six years after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment.
She returned alongside another dual national, Anoosheh Ashoori, after London resolved what it called a parallel issue – repaying to Tehran a 400 million pound ($526 million) debt dating back to 1979 for the purchase of military tanks that were never delivered.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she had been told shortly after her arrest that the Iranians wanted “something off the Brits”, and she could not understand why it had taken six years, and five different foreign secretaries, for it to be resolved.
“I mean, how many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five?” she asked. “What’s happened now should have happened six years ago.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said all foreign ministers had worked hard to secure her release.
“The government, including the prime minister, was committed to securing Nazanin’s release as soon as possible. It was always entirely in Iran’s gift to release detained dual nationals,” he told reporters.
“All the foreign secretaries who have taken on this role have worked hard with officials to secure the release. It has been extremely complicated, it has been very difficult work.”
FAMOUSFOR A WEEK
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by Revolutionary Guards at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016, while trying to return to Britain with her then 22-month-old daughter Gabriella from an Iranian New Year’s trip to see her parents.
Her family and her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, denied the charge against her. The Thomson Reuters Foundation is a charity that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and its news subsidiary Reuters.
“I have been a pawn in the hands of the two governments over the past six years,” she said. Zaghari-Ratcliffe thanked her family, friends and journalists for keeping her case in the spotlight, and said she was determined not to hold a grudge for the rest of her life.
She added that she only believed she was going home when she finally stepped on to the plane.
“Gabriella told me on the phone one day when I was in Iran, ‘Mummy you do realise that you are very famous, and then it’s me, and then it’s daddy’,” she said, adding that she told her daughter it would be better to have a “normal” life.
“And she said, ‘Oh you’re not going to be famous forever. Maximum a week’.” ($1 = 0.7612 pounds)