Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian dual citizen who has been detained in Iran since 2016, must wait another week for a decision on whether she will be permanently freed from jail, a move her husband says has left the family “hovering between hope and despair”.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe had expected an update on Saturday on the progress of a bid for clemency. She was hoping to be released in time for her daughter Gabriella’s sixth birthday on Thursday but instead has been told to call back next week.
It has become an agonising wait for the family, who were hopeful she might be permanently released as part of an amnesty for 3,000 prisoners at the end of Ramadan, which was announced by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But two weeks after Eid, her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said Iranian authorities were “really playing with us at this stage”.
“I worried beforehand that Nazanin’s furlough would just become a new phase of her being a bargaining chip, a way of using us to signal to the UK that there are two paths ahead, a way to keep us hovering permanently between hope and despair,” he told the PA news agency.
“This is no way to keep testing someone after four years of trauma. There is no halfway house in a hostage situation. We remain exposed – and will be until she is home.”
Earlier this year, Ratcliffe urged Boris Johnson to pay a contested £400m debt the UK owes to Iran, which he believes to be hindering his wife’s release, in the form of humanitarian aid.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has served four years of a five-year sentence over allegations of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government. She was released on furlough in March as the coronavirus outbreak tore through the country and started to spread in prisons.
Under the conditions of her temporary release, she must wear a tag and stay at her parents’ home in Tehran, where she video calls her husband and daughter in the UK.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case contrasts sharply with that of US navy veteran Michael White, who flew home on Thursday after being detained in Iran for two years.
Last year, Zaghari-Ratcliffe celebrated her daughter’s birthday with her during visiting hours at the prison, penning an emotional letter that read: “I asked you where you wanted your birthday this year. ‘In prison’, you said, ‘so, Mummy, you can come.’
“I know that the road to take us home might still be long. There might still be bumps. But we will go home. Together we will be a family again.”