Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 15 July 2020

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: UK rejects plea from charity worker detained in Iran for ambassador visit

Lawyers for the British-Iranian mother fear she could be sent back to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been out of Tehran's Evin prison since March. Reuters
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been out of Tehran's Evin prison since March. Reuters

The UK’s Foreign Office has rejected an appeal from detained British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe for London’s ambassador to Iran to visit her while under house arrest in Tehran.

Lawyers for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe say a face-to-face meeting would “show her support” as authorities in Tehran decided whether she should be returned to jail.

They accused the Foreign Office of showing “timid inaction and indecision”, in a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

She was sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 on dubious espionage charges but there are fears that if the “opportunity is squandered” she could be the target of “political posturing” and locked up for longer.

According to The Guardian, which first reported the news, the Foreign Office is concerned that a visit by the ambassador could risk angering Iran.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given formal diplomatic protection last year by Mr Raab’s predecessor, in a rarely-used mechanism where “a state can seek protection on behalf of one of its nationals if it believes they have been wronged by another state,” the Foreign Office said at the time.

Tulip Siddiq, Ms Zaghari Ratcliffe’s London MP, urged the government to do more to support her constituent.

“I’ve been told by Nazanin’s family that her plea to speak face to face with the British ambassador was rejected - the Foreign Secretary should step in to make this happen,” she said.

“She’s a British citizen who is the subject of Diplomatic protection. This is just not fair.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been on furlough from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since March at her parents home after the coronavirus wreaked havoc in Iran and spread into its jails.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who has been in prison in Tehran since 2016 on espionage charges. AFP
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who has been in prison in Tehran since 2016 on espionage charges. AFP

She is one of a number of dual Iranian citizens who have been locked up in Iran on charges typically related to espionage and spying.

Lawyers for the charity worker said a personal visit was “long overdue” and “entirely appropriate” given her diplomatic protection status and Iran’s “abuse of Nazanin’s human rights and denial of the UK’s right to consular visits”.

“There is also a serious risk that, if this opportunity is squandered and Nazanin is taken back into prison, she will be the target of yet more exploitation and political posturing, including the reinstatement of her second court case and a new sentence of up to five further years of imprisonment,” the letter to Mr Raab said.

“As Nazanin told the embassy directly, the UK government must not presume that she will be released once her five-year sentence has been completed. If she is put back in prison at this point, it will signify that she will be held, not for a few more months, but for several more years,” it added.

The Foreign Office says it has consistently requested access to dual-nationals detained in Iran.

The letter from Ms Zaghari Ratcliffe’s lawyer said: “She is an innocent British citizen whose rights will be protected by the UK government and whose inhumane treatment at the hands of Iran will no longer be tolerated. You sending your ambassador to visit her after four years’ wait would embody that message.”

Prisoners in Iran often live in squalid conditions are denied medical care and the necessary support. Covid-19 spread rapidly across jails in the country, with Ms Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe among those reporting symptoms of the deadly disease.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are in contact with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family and will continue to make decisions in line with what we believe will produce the best outcome.”

Updated: May 18, 2020 01:05 PM

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