Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 26 April 2019

Iran restricts detained Briton’s phone calls from jail

Action was taken against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after she threatened to go on hunger strike

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured with her daughter, has been held in Tehran for more than two years. AFP
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured with her daughter, has been held in Tehran for more than two years. AFP

The Iranian authorities have restricted the phone calls from jail of detained charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after she announced plans to go on a hunger strike.

Officials cancelled one of her weekly calls with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and imposed restrictions on others, according to the Free Nazanin campaign which supports the family’s efforts to free the 40-year-old dual national.

The new restrictions were put in place after she and Iranian rights campaigner Narges Mohammadi jointly announced they would start an initial three-day protest on January 14 because their health concerns were being ignored. They are both held in the political prisoner’s block at Evin prison in Tehran.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of seeking to undermine the clerical regime. Her supporters deny the charge and say she is a pawn in a broader diplomatic battle between Iran and the West.

Her MP urged the government to do more than “tough rhetoric” with her situation getting considerably worse in the last two weeks.

“Nazanin has been told the calls that she was allowed to make to her family and husband in London have now been restricted and will be further restricted,” said Tulip Siddiq, an MP for the opposition Labour party.

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She and other MPs called for her case to be discussed at the UN Security Council. British officials have been blocked from seeing the mother-of-one because Iran does not recognise the status of dual nationality.

Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt told parliament that the case was best dealt with between the two countries. He also denied 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 this month when Iran may seek to force UK government-owned company, International Military Services, to hand over the money that it is owed.

“There’s no linkage accepted by the UK government or the Iranian government” to Ms Zaghari’s detention, Mr Burt told parliament.

Updated: January 8, 2019 09:55 AM

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