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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Briton in Iran jail suffers cancer scare, says husband

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016

Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella Family Handout via Reuters
Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella Family Handout via Reuters

A British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran and at the centre of a political controversy in Britain has undergone tests for breast cancer as her emotional state worsens, her husband said on Sunday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "at the end of her tether" after being taken to Iranmehr hospital in Tehran for specialist examination of new lumps, according to Richard Ratcliffe.

His wife has been complaining for months of sharp pains in her breasts, which resulted in an ultrasound test on Saturday and medication being prescribed before a follow-up consultation next weekend, he said.

After talking to his wife on the phone on Sunday, Mr Ratcliffe said he feared she has lost the ability to control her emotions while in detention.

"What's clear is that the toll of the last 20 months is very significant," he told AFP. "It will be a long journey back."

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) - the media organisation's philanthropic arm - was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016.

She is now serving a five-year jail sentence for sedition, and may face further charges and another trial that could double the length of her sentence.

Her case sparked a political firestorm in Britain after foreign secretary Boris Johnson told a parliamentary committee that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran "training journalists".

Her family insists she was in the country on holiday, and the foreign secretary later clarified to MPs that Britain believes this, too.

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A chorus of opposition politicians have called on Mr Johnson to resign for the error.

Mr Ratcliffe, who has been campaigning for his wife's release, said he received a "positive" phone call from Mr Johnson on Sunday.

Their conversation lasted about 20 minutes, and they agreed to meet, according to a statement from the Free Nazanin Campaign.

It added that Mr Johnson agreed "to look seriously" at Mr Ratcliffe accompanying him on an imminent visit to Iran, and to consider a request for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be given diplomatic protection.

The family believes the move, based on a legal opinion they submitted to the foreign office two months ago, could aid Britain's efforts to secure her release under international law.

On Sunday, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, told a BBC interviewer he did not know what Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran.

But he went on to reiterate the family's belief that she was there on holiday, while defending Mr Johnson and laying the blame on Iran for her detention.

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife's family in Britain watched the interview and were left "pretty indignant."

"It felt unnecessary," he added of Mr Gove's initial equivocation.