Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reaches 1,000 days in Iranian jail

Dispute over historic arms deal cited as reason for her detention set to return to UK courts next month

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe embraces her daughter Gabriella during her brief period of freedom. AFP
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe embraces her daughter Gabriella during her brief period of freedom. AFP

The family of charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will mark 1,000 days spent in an Iranian jail on Friday after a year of crushed hopes that she would be imminently freed to return home to Britain.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe - a British-Iranian dual national - was jailed in April 2016 for five years after a closed-doors hearing and repeatedly accused in Iranian media of seeking to topple the regime.

Her family say she is the innocent victim of a diplomatic battle waged between Iran and the West.

Supporters have suggested that an unpaid bill for a multi-million-pound arms deal from nearly 40 years ago was a stumbling block to her release.

Company documents show that Britain has set aside more than £500 million to pay back Iran after an agreement to supply the Shah of Iran with tanks and armoured vehicles was scrapped following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The UK was first ordered to repay the money in 2001 but a series of appeals and counter-claims has delayed the repayment, which is complicated by sanctions that have been imposed on Iran.

The case returns to the UK high court in January when Iran may seek to force UK government-owned company, International Military Services, to hand over the money that it is owed.

“Clearly we are caught up in dispute between UK and Iran and that’s not our fault,” said Richard Ratcliffe, the detained woman’s husband.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe works as an administrator for the charity wing of the Thomson Reuters news and business intelligence organisation.


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She is one of an estimated 50 foreign and dual nationals detained on political grounds in Iran since 2007 with as many has 20 still held.

She was detained at Tehran Airport in April 2016 after a family holiday with her young daughter to visit her parents. She turned 40 on Wednesday and has spoken of her fears that she will not be able to have more children.

She was released for three days in August but her pleas for the leave to be extended were rebuffed and she was forced to return to Tehran’s notorious Evin jail.

Her family said they had a glimmer of hope after her lawyer was interviewed for the first time by Iranian state media this month when the prospect of early release was raised.

The British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also visited this year and warned of repercussions if she was not freed. Richard Dalton, a former UK ambassador to Iran, has, however, previously warned that the UK government’s options were limited.

“Last Christmas, we were really hopeful, really confident - there was a lot of momentum behind us, a lot of noise. A year on she is still behind bars,” said Mr Ratcliffe. “All that noise didn’t work. We’re not hopeful, so much as fearful what the future might bring.”

Mr Ratcliffe’s continuing campaign comes after the families of seven men imprisoned in Iran joined forces for a joint appeal to world leaders to put pressure on Tehran for their freedom.

They called on governments to put the plight of the detainees foremost in any discussions with the clerical regime amid heightened tensions after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The relatives said the seizure of the seven men were part of “deliberate and tactical moves… to secure bargaining chips” by the Iranian authorities during their political brinkmanship with the West.

Updated: December 27, 2018 08:51 AM