'New punchbag!' Arch-Remainer convinced Brexiteers hate Nazanin following safe UK return

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Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist at the Guardian and Observer, claimed how Brits voted in the 2016 referendum was a key dividing line on what they made of the return of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iran. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had been arrested on spying charges while visiting her parents in Iran in 2016, was freed last week after spending six years in detention.

Her return to the UK came after the British Government paid off £400million in debt to Tehran.

Both Britain and Iran claim the debt, which dates back as far as the 1970s, is not linked to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.

Upon her return to the UK, the British-Iranian faced a barrage of criticism on social media after she said “what’s happened now should have happened six years ago”.

Ms Cadwalladr wrote on Twitter: “It’s official: Nazanin is the Brexiteers’ new punchbag.

“Same old names, same old tactics: hate, misogyny, shame.”

The Europhile commentator, who is being sued by self-proclaimed ‘Bad Boy of Brexit’ Arron Banks, had been responding to a lengthy thread analysing criticism of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Ms Cadwalladr added: “This research is so valuable.

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“We can all see it happening but having these network charts makes it visible.”

The research, which was conducted by Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor in Middle East Studies and Digital Humanities at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Doha, indicated Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s haters on Twitter frequently described themselves as pro-Brexit.

In a thread on his research, Mr Jones said: “A very distinctly pro-Brexit and conservative community are generally the ones labelling Nazanin as ungrateful on Twitter.”

Mr Jones also claimed he had analysed 14,000 tweets from around 8,600 unique accounts during his research.

Mr Banks, who co-founded Leave.EU alongside Reform UK leader Richard Tice, called Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s critical comments “charming” and claimed she was “stupidly in an hostile country that we sanction heavily”.

The ex-UKIP donor later posted a picture of Zaghari-Ratcliffe with a group, including local Labour MP Tulip Siddiq and Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, adding it was “hard to imagine she wasn’t politically active in Iran”.

Susan Hall, Tory leader in City Hall and ex-contributor to Eurosceptic website Brexit Central, also tweeted: “What you really mean is that Iranians should not have unlawfully kept you as prisoner for 6 years.

Jeremy Hunt, the Remain-voting ex-Foreign Secretary who stood against Mr Johnson for Tory leader in 2019, said on Tuesday people who had been criticising Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had “got it so wrong”.

The South West Surrey MP wrote on Twitter: “She doesn’t owe us gratitude: we owe her an explanation.

“She’s absolutely right that it took too long to bring her home. I tried my best – as did other foreign secretaries – but if trying our best took six years then we must be honest and say the problem should have been solved earlier.

“This kind of open scrutiny as to whether we could do things better is what happens in democratic, open societies.”

David Lammy, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary and ex-second referendum backer, also said: “Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe does not owe the Government gratitude.

“The Government owes Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe an explanation for what took it so long.”



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