Letter to the Editor: the Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case

8 Jan 21

Honorary CIPFA member and former head of the NAO’s International Relations and Technical Cooperation programme David Goldsworthy writes in response to a recent article, setting out that Iran must release British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.


Messages of support for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe / Shutterstock 1431505562

Messages of support for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe painted on stones at the Iranian embassy in London in 2019. Photo by Dominic Dudley © Shutterstock

Dear Editor,

This week you carried an article on rising poverty levels in Iran. It would have been helpful if you could have used this opportunity to reiterate calls for the releases of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other British citizens illegally detained by the Iranian authorities. Nazanin, as many of your readers will know, was seized in April 2016 at Tehran Airport on the way home to the UK with her young daughter, having been in Iran to visit her parents.

She was accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government and sentenced by a kangaroo court to five years of imprisonment. After three and a half years, her daughter was allowed to travel home to be with her father, Richard, in the UK. More recently, Nazanin has been temporarily allowed out of prison on house arrest. At any moment she can be returned to prison and is under huge psychological stress as the regime threatens to drum up new charges so she can continue to be held hostage.

What many CIPFA members may not know is that both Nazanin and Richard have been long-time advocates of public accountability and financial regularity. When Nazanin was working with the Reuters Foundation she was part of a project involving the UK National Audit Office, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and others helping strengthen Supreme Audit Institutions and Public Accounts Committees, in her case through arranging training for financial journalists. Her husband Richard worked for the NAO and later helped draft the International Development Select Committee report on Parliamentary Strengthening.

As Amnesty International reports, in a Christmas card to Nazanin’s daughter Gabriella, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “I will do my best to get your mummy home as soon as possible and am so sorry it is taking so long”. This message comes just over three years since he promised to leave “no stone unturned” in the fight to get her mother home.

A petition for her release was signed by 3.5 million people and Amnesty International has run repeated campaigns for her release. Nothing so far has proved effective in persuading the Iranian authorities to show clemency. It is saddening to see the continued growth in poverty in Iran, but the article is disingenuous in not pointing out that some of this is a direct result of the actions of those currently governing Iran and their refusal to abide by international standards of justice. This is symbolised all too evidently by the way they continue to fail to discharge Nazanin and allow her to return home to her family in the UK.

  • David Goldsworthy

    Honorary CIPFA member and former head of the NAO’s International Relations and Technical Cooperation programme.

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