Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s hopes dashed after brief release 

31 August 2018

The British-Iranian mother collapses on return to prison

REUTERS/HANDOUT

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is reunited with her daughter, last week

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is reunited with her daughter, last week

A BRITISH-IRANIAN mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained in Iran since 2016, “blacked out” on her return to prison this week after seeing her family during her temporary release.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomas Reuters Foundation, was reunited with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and their four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, for three days last week. An application to extend her release was denied, and she returned to prison in Tehran, on Sunday, Mr Ratcliffe said.

She later suffered panic attacks, and was reportedly taken on Wednesday to the hospital wing of Evin prison in Tehran, where she is being held.

Mr Ratcliffe said on Wednesday: “She had a panic attack yesterday in prison, and she had another panic attack today, and today she also blacked out; so she was taken down to the prison clinic and, as far as I know, that’s where she is still. I’ve seen reports saying she’s been taken to an external hospital, but I haven’t had those confirmed.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in 2016, after visiting her family on holiday. She was convicted of espionage and sentenced to five years (News, 24 June 2016).

Her husband has been campaigning for her release.

She had been told to return to prison by sunset on Sunday, he said, as the permit for her extended release had not been approved.

“After discussion with her family in Iran, Nazanin decided that she would go into prison. She did not want to be dragged out of the house in front of her baby, but would walk into prison with her head held high.”

The Free Nazanin Campaign posted on Twitter a picture of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe saying goodbye to her daughter. It read: “We have just heard the sad news that Nazanin’s extension has been refused and she has returned to prison. Here is the moment she said goodbye to a distraught Gabriella #FreeNazanin.”

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The Free Nazanin Campaign is supported by the Vicar of Emmanuel Church, Hampstead, the Revd Jonathan Kester. “We pray for her release each day,” he said on Tuesday.

“There is a permanent photograph of her at the front of the church, with a red candle, and we have been glad to host a number of events for the Free Nazanin campaign.

“When we heard that Nazanin had been granted a temporary release from prison, we very much prayed that this would be a prelude to her full release, and her return to the UK with Gabriella. We shall continue to support the Free Nazanin campaign and do all that we can to support Richard and his family in securing her permanent release so that the family can be reunited.”

In April, family and friends of the Zaghari-Ratcliffes gathered in West Hampstead, north-west London, to mark the second anniversary of her detention. The group decorated a tree with yellow ribbons and flowers, and laid some of more than 700 stones, which had been painted for Mothering Sunday (News, 6 April).

On Tuesday, Mr Ratcliffe praised the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for his efforts to secure her release. He said that Mr Hunt had been “clear and critical” about the case in a way that his predecessor, Boris Johnson, had not.

Mr Hunt posted on Twitter on Wednesday: “All our thoughts and prayers with Nazanin and her family today. Unbearable suffering to be apart from daughter with her hopes raised then dashed. We must redouble efforts to find a way to get her home #FreeNazanin.”

The change.org petition for her release reached 1.9 million signatures this week.

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