‘The Iranian authorities must end her ordeal by releasing her immediately and unconditionally’ - Philip Luther
Fears are growing for the physical and mental health of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British charity worker jailed in Iran after being sentenced - after an unfair trial - to five years in prison on unspecified “national security charges” earlier this year.
Her husband, Richard Radcliffe, has told Amnesty International that the 37-year-old’s health has deteriorated sharply in recent weeks and she has even contemplated suicide.
Mr Ratcliffe said that over the past few weeks she had reached “breaking point” and her spirits had sunk so low that she even wrote a suicide letter to him and her family. She gave the letter to her cellmate but has not talked about suicide since.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is suffering from heart palpitations, blurred vision and is experiencing pain in her hands, arms and shoulders. She began a hunger strike on 13 November to express her despair over the prospect of never being released.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has become so unwell that the prison authorities arranged an emergency family visit for her today, during which her mother collapsed when she saw how thin her daughter had become since her imprisonment. Zaghari-Ratcliffe agreed to end her hunger strike today for the sake of her infant daughter Gabriella.
Meanwhile, despite two visits to the clinic at Tehran’s Evin Prison, her family say she has not received adequate medical care.
Philp Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said:
“The news of the decline in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s health is deeply alarming.
“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ordeal has caused her immense despair and suffering. It is shocking that the Iranian authorities are adding to her pain by failing to grant her adequate medical care.
“Her imprisonment on spurious ‘national security’ charges has been utterly unjust.
“After her arrest, she was separated from her baby daughter and held in solitary confinement for 45 days. Instead of prolonging her pain and suffering, the Iranian authorities must end her ordeal by releasing her immediately and unconditionally.”
‘Soft overthrow’ allegations
The Iranian authorities announced earlier this year that her arrest was linked to her alleged involvement with a network of bloggers imprisoned in 2014 for taking part in journalism training courses. On 15 June Iran’s Revolutionary Guards released a statement saying that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had “participated in devising and carrying out media and cyber projects aimed at the soft overthrow of the government”. Amnesty believes she is a prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in September following a conviction on unspecified “national security-related” offences after an unfair trial before a Revolutionary Court in the capital Tehran. The charity worker from Hampstead in north-west London was originally arrested at Tehran Airport on 3 April along with her then 22-month-old daughter Gabriella. She was initially held in solitary confinement for several weeks and denied access to either a lawyer or her family.
Other dual nationals
Amnesty has been campaigning for justice for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe as well as other dual nationals, including the UK-Iranian businessman, Kamal Foroughi, 77, an oil and gas consultant who has served more than five years of an eight-year jail sentence after being convicted of espionage. Mr Foroughi’s release is long overdue under Iran’s own early-release laws and Amnesty has called for him to be released immediately.
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