A British-Iranian family has become the victims of superpower politics. Their suffering must end

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an entirely innocent woman who has been held on trumped-up charges of espionage in Iranian jails since 2016. She holds dual British and Iranian citizenship, which the Iranian government does not recognise. Her husband Richard Ratcliffe has been on hunger strike immediately outside the Iranian embassy for the last fortnight, in solidarity with the hunger strike she is herself maintaining in Evin jail in Tehran. The Iranian ambassador has complained that this protest makes his work impossible – and if it does, so much the better. The resolution to this crisis lies entirely in Iranian hands. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe should be released and reunited with her family. But – while the blame for her arrest and imprisonment belongs squarely to the Iranian regime – successive British governments have made the situation harder to resolve.

Boris Johnson’s career as foreign secretary was undistinguished by anything except a lack of diplomacy but quite his worst gaffe was saying that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “teaching journalism” in Iran when in fact she had simply been on a family holiday. This helped the Iranian authorities to politicise the case against her, since independent journalism is a subversive activity in Iran, as elsewhere in the Middle East. The Iranian government did not need any encouragement to seize and jail Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe but Mr Johnson anyway gave them what he could. Jeremy Corbyn, to his credit, has spoken out in support of her, and spent 40 minutes talking to Mr Ratcliffe outside the embassy earlier this week.

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