Husband of Briton held in Iran fears outcome of appeal

Updated: 

The husband of a British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Iran has said he is terrified about the possible outcome of his wife's appeal.

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, has been sentenced to five years for allegedly plotting to topple the government in Tehran, but details of the charges against her have been kept secret.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe has claimed she is being used as a bargaining chip in a diplomatic spat between Iran and the UK, and an appeal over her sentence was taking place in Tehran.

"To be honest, I do not know how long it was expected to last and I don't know if it has happened on time - because none of the family can go there - it is another of these secret trials," Mr Ratcliffe said.

"We will know that it has happened and a bit about what was said in the courtroom... but in terms of the result, which is written... it might come today, it might come next week.

"Last time we had a trial, there was a gap of about four weeks between the trial and the verdict."

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a Thomson Reuters Foundation worker, was moved out of solitary confinement over Christmas and into general cells. Mr Ratcliffe said his wife's condition has since improved as previously she was feeling suicidal.

He said it is "really hard to tell" what might happen at the appeal hearing and that it would be "really unlucky" if she was handed a bigger sentence.

"People in her cell were given bigger sentences at appeal, so I wouldn't hold my breath," he said.

The 41-year-old said he hopes more details about the charges against her will emerge following the hearing.

Mr Ratcliffe said that as the appeal process continues, the enormity of it has hit him, adding: "Obviously her father is terrified as am I. We are increasingly on tenterhooks as to what could happen."

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north-west London, was arrested at Tehran Airport on April 3 last year with her two-year-old daughter Gabriella.

She has served nine months so far, two of which, Mr Ratcliffe said, have been in solitary confinement. Their daughter is also in the country and being looked after by family.

Mr Ratcliffe said the Iranian government has taken Gabriella's passport, and it has not been given back despite a request from the British Government. 

"I have watched her grow up on Skype," he said. "She has lost her English, and she is now pretty much fluent in Farsi - with only a few words in English.

"Conversations now either have to be translated through one of her aunts and uncles or they are very physical - so playing peekaboo and watching her dancing."

Mr Ratcliffe said he is trying to get a visa number so documents can be eventually obtained so he can visit his wife and child.

"Finding a way to do that is proving to be quite tricky. Lets see how these next few days go and next couple of weeks go and what the appeal means," he added.

"Essentially, my basic strategy is to keep campaigning and to escalate campaigning."

Amnesty International UK's individuals at risk campaign manager, Kathy Voss, said: "There's a distinct air of unreality to this appeal.

"As far as we're concerned, Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association.

"Though she shouldn't even find herself in this awful position, we very much hope the appeal will rule in Nazanin's favour and order her immediate release.

"Nazanin has already been cruelly separated from her family and friends for three-quarters of a year. It's time for this injustice to end."