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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Detained Briton addresses rally from Iranian prison

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe told campaigners that she was focused on being released from jail as her detention for ‘spying’ passes 600 days

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, talks to demonstrators following a march in support of the detained British-Iranian mother in Iran REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, talks to demonstrators following a march in support of the detained British-Iranian mother in Iran REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

A British mother has spoken by telephone from prison in Iran to thank campaigners seeking her release after more than 600 days in custody.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s words were transmitted by loudspeaker to a rally staged as part of a long-running and vocal campaign orchestrated by her family.

The dual British-Iranian national has been held since April 2016 when she was arrested at Tehran airport as she returned from a trip to see her parents with her then 22-month old daughter Gabriella. She has been accused of seeking to overthrow the Tehran regime.

"All that is on my mind is to be back home and to be back with my family,” the 37-year-old told the rally held near her north London home.

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Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, faced calls for his resignation this month after he said that she was in the country training journalists. He later retracted his comments and apologised.

The comments were seized on by Iranian officials as evidence of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s true reasons for being in Iran, claims denied by both her family and employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Following Mr Johnson's comments, she was returned to court and threatened with a longer prison sentence. Campaigners say she has been used as a pawn in the broader dispute between Iran and the West and political power games within the regime.

The rally took place before a march to the Shia Islamic Centre of England in north-west London, to hand in a "Mothers' Open Letter" asking for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release from the Tehran prison.

"The screw is twisting more and more and her physical and mental health is deteriorating to such a degree now that I think we are in a very urgent situation," said the Oscar-winning actor Emma Thompson, who was on the march.

An online petition calling for her to be returned to Britain has more than 1.3 million signatures.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK's director, said: "She's been put through a deeply unfair trial and could be facing a fresh charge, so it's extremely important that the recent political focus on Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case now translates into the Iranian authorities finally releasing her."