Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Family of Briton detained in Iran reject prison release deal

The family of Nazanin-Zaghari Ratcliffe says keeping her under armed guard is not acceptable

the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe have rejected an offer to put her under armed guard in a rented house. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe have rejected an offer to put her under armed guard in a rented house. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The family of a charity worker held in an Iranian jail has rejected an offer by Tehran to move her to a rented house under armed guard, her husband said on Wednesday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained since April 2016 after being accused of trying to topple the regime, despite a vocal campaign by her family and employers to try to secure her release.

She was jailed for five years for sedition and has been detained at the notorious Evin prison where supporters say her physical and mental health has worsened.

The dual British-Iranian national was detained at Tehran Airport as she prepared to leave the country after a family trip with her then 18-month-old daughter, Gabriella. Her daughter remains in the country with her maternal grandparents in Iran.

Richard Ratcliffe said the Iranian authorities had encouraged her legal team to apply for temporary release to her parents’ home in Iran amid continuing diplomatic efforts to secure her release.

But the lawyer was told on Sunday that the judiciary were instead proposing to rent a house to allow Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her daughter to stay together under armed guard.

“The family’s view was that this would simply be a different kind of imprisonment, and not an option for Nazanin and Gabriella,” said Mr Ratcliffe in a statement. “We are not about to put Gabriella under armed guard.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of at least eight people with dual Iranian and foreign nationality held in prison in Iran.

They include one other Briton, Kamal Foroughi, an oil and gas consultant in his 70s who has been held for more than six years on alleged espionage charges.


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Details of the family’s latest push for freedom came as Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, was visiting London for talks with British Foreign Minister Alistair Burt.

Mr Ratcliffe delivered a letter to the Iranian embassy pressing the minister to speed up her release. He has not been allowed into the country to see them since the arrest.

"We left them on the door with them promising to pick them up once the press had gone," Mr Ratcliffe said after visiting the embassy. "Today's event might be seen as provocative, but it is not intended to be. It is a chance for the Iranian government to affirm its humanitarian credentials.

“I have been frustrated by what has felt like games – all the while Nazanin continues to be in prison.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe works as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news organisation. She has been accused of working with the company and her previous employer the BBC to overthrow the regime.

Her employers denied she was in the country to do any work on behalf of the organisation and her supporters say she is a pawn in a broader political game.

The UK government has been criticised over its handling of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case and officials have told her husband that his public comments may not be helping her case.

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson last year told a parliamentary committee that she had been training journalists in Iran, comments that were seized on by the regime to bolster their assertions that she had lied about the nature of her trip. Mr Johnson later apologised for his comments.

Updated: February 21, 2018 07:57 PM