Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe face ‘uncertainty’ ahead of court hearing

Emma Bowden and Mike Bedigan, PA
·3-min read

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said his family faces further uncertainty ahead of her return to court in Iran.

His comments came after a report warned that the 42-year-old is a victim of torture and requires urgent psychiatric treatment.

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife “remains in harm’s way” despite being released from house arrest last week after her five-year prison term expired.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 as Iranian authorities made widely refuted spying allegations, and finished the latter part of her sentence under house arrest due to the coronavirus crisis.

Richard Ratcliffe outside the Iranian Embassy in London
Richard Ratcliffe during a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London (Ian West/PA)

But the British-Iranian mother-of-one must return to court to face more charges in the case, which some observers have linked to a long-standing debt Iran alleges it is owed by the UK.

Mr Ratcliffe said while Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) officials are “relieved” Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle monitor has been removed, they remain “cautious” about what could happen next.

“I don’t think they know what to expect on Sunday, and I don’t think we know what to expect on Sunday,” he told the PA news agency.

“They said there is a range of possibilities. It getting postponed and not even happening, to it happening but not being clear on what is going on, to it being more serious and ominous.

“All of those things are uncertain.”

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife was “euphoric” and felt “a step closer to freedom” after her ankle tag was removed last week, but she fears leaving the house alone as she feels she is being followed.

“As the week has gone on, she has got more anxious, sleepless, and trying to keep herself busy as a way of distraction,” he added.

It comes after a detailed medical assessment, commissioned by a charity, found Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been a victim of torture, is suffering from major depression and PTSD, and requires urgent psychiatric treatment.

Human rights group Redress has called on the Government to recognise her as a victim of torture following the report from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT).

The report said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s condition has been caused by “extremely stressful, traumatising experiences in the prisons of Iran” and the uncertainty surrounding her immediate future.

It also said at the beginning of her sentence in 2016 she was interrogated for hours on end, often blindfolded, while in solitary confinement.

Mr Ratcliffe said continuing media coverage of his wife’s case has “kept us safer, much safer than other people”, adding: “It’s the ones that you don’t get to hear about that you really have to worry about.

“It’s helped in the glass ceiling of abuse – there’s a limit beyond which they won’t go – and I think that is the most important thing.”

In response to the IRCT report, an FCDO spokeswoman said: “Iran continues to put Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe through a cruel and intolerable ordeal.

“Nazanin must be allowed to return permanently to her family in the UK and we will continue to do all we can to achieve this.”

Downing Street said Boris Johnson had again demanded the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday.

A No 10 spokesman said the Prime Minister had said “that while the removal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle monitor was welcome, her continued confinement remains completely unacceptable and she must be allowed to return to her family in the UK”.

Kate Allen, director at Amnesty International UK, said: “We’ve called on UK officials to show maximum solidarity with Nazanin at this time – everything they do to help her is and will be important.

“Most pressingly, the UK Government should make urgent representations seeking to have this charge dropped and facilitate her immediate return back home to the UK.”