Politics

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘right to ask for answers’ says leading MP as probe launched

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is “right to ask for answers”, a leading MP said as he launched a select committee inquiry into the government’s handling of her six-year Iran hostage ordeal.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 43, and fellow British-Iranian national Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, were released last month after the UK agreed to settle a £400m debt with Tehran dating from 1979.

The foreign affairs committee will examine how their cases were handled by the government as it carries out an inquiry into “state level hostage situations”.

Both former hostages have been critical of the failure of the foreign office to secure their release sooner.

Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs committee, said the return home of the pair was “wonderful news, but long overdue”.

“After years of imprisonment, in extremely difficult circumstances, Nazanin and Anoosheh are right to ask for answers,” the MP added.

“Iran is not the only country engaging in state hostage taking.

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“The tactic is fast becoming a tool of choice for authoritarian states and recent high profile cases have highlighted the challenges governments face when securing the release of hostages held captive by states.”

He said the select committee’s inquiry would examine the support provided by the foreign office to hostages in recent cases “as well as take a look at the broader picture and ask how the government can clamp down on the practice internationally”.

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Nazanin ‘haunted’ by imprisonment

The inquiry will seek evidence on the “merits and mistakes made” in the handling of the Iranian hostage situation.

Tulip Siddiq, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP, welcomed the announcement of the probe, saying “lessons must be learnt to ensure this never happens again”.

In a news conference last month after her return to the UK, which saw her reunited with her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella, the former hostage said “what happened now should have happened six years ago”.

She said: “I was told many, many times that ‘oh, we’re going to get you home’. That never happened.

“How many foreign secretaries does it take to get someone home? What happened now should have happened six years ago.”

She added that the “meaning of freedom is never going to be complete” until Morad Tahbaz and other dual nationals who have been held in Iran are released.

The family of 66-year-old Mr Tahbaz have said they feel “abandoned” and revealed he is on hunger strike after he was returned to prison even as the other two captives were freed.

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has defended Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe after she was criticised as being “ungrateful” following her release.

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