Plea to free frail and desperate British mother held in Iran jail

A British mother jailed in Iran is barely able to walk after weeks in solitary confinement and is now “frail and desperate”, her London-based lawyers have said in a letter to Boris Johnson.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, has been held since April when Iranian Revolutionary Guards arrested her at Tehran airport as she was returning to Britain from holiday.

The London-based office worker, who has dual British and Iranian nationality, was separated from her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who is being looked after by her Iranian grandparents. The girl’s British passport was confiscated, preventing her from leaving Iran. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was later accused of heading a foreign spy network that was plotting the “soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic”.

Richard Ratcliffe has not seen Nazanin and their daughter since MarchGARETH FULLER/PA WIRE

In a letter sent to the foreign secretary this week, her lawyers said that she had spent six weeks in solitary confinement in an unknown location in Kerman, 620 miles from Tehran, where she was subjected to the “hardest of treatment” without medical care.

“During which time she suffered dangerous weight loss, lost a lot of hair, and [has] become virtually unable to walk,” wrote Penny Madden, QC.

 During a family visit in May “she was unable to stand up. She had lost weight and was so weak that she was unable to lift her daughter up.”

After being forced to sign a confession she was moved to Evin prison in Tehran, where she has been barred access to a lawyer, the letter continued. “It is extremely disappointing that there has apparently been little follow-up action or concern on the part of the government or any political party. We ask you to do all in your power to secure the freedom of this entirely innocent and increasingly frail and desperate young woman,” it said.

Richard Ratcliffe, 41, her husband, who works as an accountant in London, last saw his wife and daughter in March, and has only spoken to her once since she was detained.

He told The Times that the family were particularly worried because she has not been granted a visit for three weeks.

“Nazanin was able to telephone her parents on Sunday when she was very upset. She has had enough,” he said. “She was told there was going to be a deal with the UK but nothing has happened. She feels like she has been left in limbo, that there is nothing she can do.”

Mr Ratcliffe has been advised against travelling to Iran for fear he could also be arrested. Instead his father has approached the Iranian embassy in London to request a visa to visit.

“I am still astonished that there has been no public criticism of Iran by the UK and that trade missions continue to be promoted at the taxpayer’s expense while Nazanin continues to be held,” Mr Ratcliffe said. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has worked at the Thomson Reuters Foundation for five years, running courses for young journalists across Africa and southeast Asia. The charity confirmed that she has never worked for it in Iran.

In June Iranian officials informed the family that they had arrested her to pressure the UK into an agreement, the details of which were never disclosed.

In response to the lawyer’s letter, the Foreign Office said it was “deeply concerned” by reports that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been charged and was continuing to support the family.