Britain unwilling to let aid worker matter drop on Iran

Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe

As the British government warns its Iranian-British citizens from traveling to Iran, the government has also told Iran that will not stop in its efforts to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She is an aid worker that was detained at the airport after a visit with her family in Iran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a dual citizen, but Iran does not acknowledge any dual citizenship.

“Iran is detaining innocent people as an instrument of diplomatic leverage and we can’t accept that,” said British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Thursday from New York, where Hunt is attending the UN General Assembly.

Project manager arrested and tried

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which is a separate entity from Reuters news agency. She denies charges of spying by the Iranian government. Charges include attempting to orchestrate a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic and running a “BBC Persian online journalism course, which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran.” That charge relates to her previous role working for the BBC World Service Trust and contributing to a course taken by several employees of an Iran technology news website. Those employees were later put in prison.

“Nazanin is not being held for anything she has personally done. It is deeply misleading by both governments to suggest or even half imply otherwise,” said Richard Ratcliffe, her husband.

During August, she received a three-day release, before being returned to prison. Her daughter was two-years-old at the time of her arrest and has been kept in Iran with her grandparents while her mother is in jail. Her father is in Britain and is not allowed to collect his daughter.

“Nazanin called me on Tuesday – one of our toughest conversations,” wrote Ratcliffe in an open letter to the Independent. “She wished she had never been released. She said she felt like one of the radical Islamists’ captives – as though she had been paraded on the balcony then hidden back away.”

Extension denied as British Officials continue to push for release

Ratcliffe noted that she was denied an extension of her three-day release. During the three days that she was out of Evin prison, Iranian officials tracked her movements and threatened an accident if she contacted any British officials while out of prison.

“As Nazanin was being released, her interrogator called in her father to privately warn him that the British Embassy should not visit her, if she wanted to stay safe,” her husband revealed.

Ratcliffe noted that there were several back and forth exchanges before his wife returned to prison voluntarily to avoid additional upset to their daughter.

“There were real hopes that not only would her three-day furlough be extended, but that her permanent and unconditional release was also just around the corner,” said Kate Allen, director of UK Amnesty International. “Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been jailed in the first place.”

Since she returned to jail, Nazanin has been sent to the hospital for issues with her legs following two panic attacks.

Prime Minister Theresa May is also increasing her pressure on Iran to release Zaghari-Ratcliffe. According to her husband, she is eligible for full release in another month, as part of the fact that she will have served over half of her sentence.

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