Number 10 urges Iran to allow Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family to visit her
Downing Street has urged Iran to allow the family of a British-Iranian woman jailed in the country to visit her after she was transferred to a hospital mental health ward.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport while travelling with their young daughter in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of spying, a charge she vehemently denies.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said she was transferred from Evin prison on Monday to the mental health ward of Iman Khomeini hospital, in Tehran, where she is being held under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Her father said he visited the hospital on Tuesday but was not allowed to see his daughter and she has not been allowed to contact her family.
Number 10 called for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be released immediately and said her family should be able to visit to check on her care.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We are extremely concerned about Nazanin’s welfare and call for her immediate release, and we urge Iran to allow family members to visit her and check on her care.”
Before being transferred, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe told relatives: “I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents.
“Three and a bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic.
“Look at me now, I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment.
“Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it.”
In a press release, the Free Nazanin Campaign said it is not known what treatment she is receiving or how long she is expected to remain in hospital.
The transfer comes after Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike for 15 days last month in protest at her “unfair imprisonment”.
Mr Ratcliffe also did not eat for the period in solidarity with his wife as he camped on the pavement outside the Iranian Embassy in London.
The couple’s five-year-old daughter Gabriella has stayed in Iran with her grandparents since her mother’s arrest.
Mr Ratcliffe said: “Nazanin hoped that her hunger strike would move the Iranian authorities, and it clearly has.
“Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don’t know what is going on.”
“I am glad her dad has been down there to keep vigil outside.
“Mental hospital has its worries at the best of times – but particularly when kept isolated and under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.
“Even now it still seems like games of power and control are being played by the Iranian authorities – even at the point of hospitalisation.
“We hope again this is the beginning of the end. And yet, we were also here last summer.
“We will be following up with the new prime minister whenever that is decided to ensure he takes personal responsibility for Nazanin’s case.”
At the end of the dual hunger strike, Mr Ratcliffe said he believed the protest had been successful in raising the profile of his wife’s case, with more than 100 MPs coming to show support to him in person, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in a bid to resolve her case.
In a 2017 gaffe, Boris Johnson, Mr Hunt’s rival for the post of become prime minister, said that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran “teaching people journalism” – despite her family’s insistence she was there to visit relatives.
He has repeatedly said the responsibility for her continued detention lies with the Revolutionary Guard.
Ellie Kennedy, Amnesty International UK’s individuals at risk campaigner, said: “Yet again, the fear must be that the Iranian authorities are playing games with Nazanin’s health and well-being.
“The fact that this has been done without her family’s involvement suggests the real motive may be more to do with exerting pressure on Britain, rather than providing Nazanin with treatment.
“We know from other cases, that the Iranian prison authorities will sometimes use a range of pressuring techniques with prisoners, often designed to coerce false confessions or sometimes simply to punish them further.
“And sometimes using prisoners as pawns in political battles.
“After all she and her family have been through, the time really has come for the Tehran authorities to bring this to an end, to release her and let her travel back to the UK with her daughter Gabriella.”