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Iran: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's latest furlough extension given cautious welcome

Nazanin Zagahri-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella © FreeNazanin campaign

Tweet from Free Nazanin campaign says ‘no decision’ has been made over whether the British national will be given clemency

‘We’re worried that the Iranian authorities are still playing games with Nazanin and her family’ - Kate Allen

Responding to reports from her husband that the British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will again have her temporary furlough release from jail in Iran extended, Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said: 

“Another period of this ‘conditional liberty’ is far better than outright jail, but we’re worried that the Iranian authorities are still playing games with Nazanin and her family.
 
“In Evin Prison, Nazanin was a prisoner of conscience. Confined to her parents’ house in Tehran, Nazanin is still a prisoner of conscience.
 
“Nazanin was convicted after a deeply unfair trial, and she should never have been behind bars at all.
 
“Obviously, there should be no question of Nazanin ever being sent back to Evin Prison. There are numerous reports of COVID-19 in Iranian jails, with detainees pleading for basic things like soap to help combat the disease.
 
“With Nazanin’s long-term fate still apparently undecided, the UK Government must step up efforts do everything within its power to ensure her full and unconditional release.”

Amnesty’s campaign for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release is here.

Accused of being ‘spy’

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, was arrested at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran in April 2016 as she was about to board a plane back to the UK following a family holiday in Iran. After being detained for more than five months, initially for 45 days in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was subjected to a deeply unfair trial and sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of “membership of an illegal group”. The charges appear to relate to her employment at Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation, as well as her past work as an administrative assistant on a BBC charity project. 

Temporary release amid coronavirus fears 

In March this year, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - like numerous prisoners in Iran - was released on a temporary furlough basis after fears that coronavirus could infect large numbers of detainees in Iran’s overcrowded jails. After being allowed out of Tehran’s Evin Prison, she has been required to wear a security device limiting her to within 300 metres of her parents’ home in the capital. 

For most of her detention, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held in Evin Prison in Tehran, where the quality of food is poor and prisoners are routinely forced to buy extra food from the prison shop to maintain something close to an adequate diet. Evin prisoners, like those in other jails in Iran, are often denied vital medical treatment, apparently as a further layer of punishment. During her incarceration, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has suffered from numerous health problems - including severe arm, neck and back pain - with her husband repeatedly raising concerns over his wife’s mental and physical health. 

Other dual-nationals

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities appears to be part of a wider pattern of bringing spurious national security-related charges against dual-nationals and other individuals with foreign connections. Prominent past cases include the Iranian-American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, and the Canadian-Iranian academic Dr Homa Hoodfar. 
 
In recent years, the human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated severely. The authorities have suppressed free expression and imprisoned those voicing dissent. Amnesty is gravely concerned that the Iranian authorities are intensifying their crackdown against human rights defenders, who have already been working under suffocating levels of repression. The intensification of the crackdown is illustrated most shockingly by the harsh prison sentences given to human rights defenders in connection with their human rights work. For more on the wider human rights situation in Iran, go here.

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