Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in psychiatric ward ‘under guard by the IRGC’

The jailed mother-of-one has not been able to contact her family, her husband says

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Tehran since 2016, was transferred to a hospital ward this week. Reuters
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Tehran since 2016, was transferred to a hospital ward this week. Reuters

The jailed British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been moved to a mental health ward in hospital and is being guarded by the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, her husband says.

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife was transferred from Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she is being held on spying charges, to Iman Khomeini Hospital on Monday.

He said the family feared she was being isolated after her father, who lives in Iran, tried to visit her on Tuesday but was blocked by the IRGC.

The Free Nazanin Campaign believes Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been forbidden from making contact with her family.

A statement released by the campaign said there was concern about the prominent involvement of the IRGC and suggested it could be to pressurise her into signing or uttering a denouncement of the British government in exchange for her release.

Mr Ratcliffe told the BBC on Wednesday it was possible his wife’s admission was a prelude to her being freed but added “it’s possible something else is going on”.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in 2016, last spoke with her family on Monday when she was told she was being transferred to a psychiatric ward.

“I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents,” she told her family.

“Three and a bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic.”

She also said: “Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike last month for 15 days in protest against her imprisonment.

Her husband joined her in solidarity, staging his hunger strike outside Iran’s embassy in London.

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, staged a hunger strike last monthoutside the Iranian embassy in London. Getty Images
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, staged a hunger strike last monthoutside the Iranian embassy in London. Getty Images

“Nazanin hoped that her hunger strike would move the Iranian authorities, and it clearly has. Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don’t know what is going on,” Mr Ratcliffe said.

“I am glad her dad has been down there to keep vigil outside. Mental hospital has its worries at the best of times – but particularly when kept isolated and under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.”

“Even now it still seems like games of power and control are being played by the Iranian authorities – even at the point of hospitalisation. We hope again this is the beginning of the end. And yet, we were also here last summer.”

He also said he would take the matter up with the new British prime minister to ensure “he takes personal responsibility for Nazanin’s case”.

One of the two candidates for the role is Boris Johnson, who incorrectly said that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran “teaching people journalism” when she was arrested.

Mr Johnson, who was foreign secretary at the time, later corrected his statement, clarifying that she had been in the country on holiday as the “sole purpose of her visit”.

Britain’s Foreign Office said the government was “extremely concerned” about the jailed mother-of-one’s welfare.

“We are in regular contact with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband and our Embassy in Tehran has consistently requested consular access,” a spokesman said.

“We urge Iran to allow family members to visit and check on her care as a matter of urgency. We will continue to call for her release at the highest levels.”

Updated: July 17, 2019 02:11 PM

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