New call for release of British mother jailed in Iran - a year on since her detention

Sunita Patel-Carstairs, News Reporter

A British-Iranian mother jailed in Tehran for allegedly plotting to topple the government has told of how she dreams of watching her husband and their young daughter dancing in their living room.

On the eve of the first anniversary of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's arrest, her family and friends will gather at Fortune Green close to her home in Hampstead, northwest London.

The 38-year-old charity worker was arrested at Tehran Airport on 3 April last year as she attempted to return to the UK following a holiday with her two-year-old daughter.

She was sentenced to five years in prison by an Iranian court on "secret charges" and lost an appeal against her sentence but maintains her innocence.

Her daughter remains in Iran with family after authorities seized her passport.

Iran does not recognise dual nationalities, and those detained cannot receive consular assistance.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliffe said it had been a "long year of separation, a year of our lives interrupted".

He has branded her sentence as "a punishment without a crime" and previously said she was struggling most with being separated from her daughter and had suffered hair and weight loss as a result of her ordeal.

The Free Nazanin Campaign said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had still not been shown her charge sheet following January's appeal or what she has been convicted of.

Supporters will later tie yellow ribbons to a tree in the park along with quotes from inmates at Evin prison in Iran, where Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held, describing what they would do with one day of freedom.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's wish reads to her husband: "My fondest dream has always been to arrive at our home, you ask me if I want to have a cup of tea, then make me one.

"I just sit back and watch you two play. This is the image I had most when in solitary confinement.

"How I wish I could watch you both dance in the middle of our sitting room to the Michael Jackson music - like when Gabriella was only tiny."

She also told of how she would like to "put a huge paper on the wall" and "draw a world in which there are no prisons, walls or fences - and let Gabriella do the colouring".

A FCO spokeswoman said: "We are deeply concerned that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence has been confirmed following an unsuccessful appeal while Iran continues to refuse the UK consular access to her.

"We continue to raise our strong concerns about all dual British/Iranian prisoners in Iran, including Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, at the highest levels in both London and Tehran.

"The UK's Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, has spoken to his Iranian opposite number, and the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have both previously raised this case with their counterparts.

"We have been supporting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family since we were first made aware of her arrest. Mr Ellwood has met her husband in London and her family in Tehran to assure them that we will continue to do all we can for her.

"We are continuing to press the Iranians for consular access and for due process to be followed, and are ready to help get her daughter back safely to the UK if requested."