Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returns to prison in Iran

Judiciary rejects extension of release for British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Tehran on espionage charges.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hugs her daughter Gabriella, in Iran
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in July 2016 on charges of sedition [Free Nazanin Campaign via AP]

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who has been held in Tehran for more than two years on sedition charges, has returned to prison after a temporary three-day release.

The move on Sunday dashed her family’s hopes that Iranian officials were clearing the way for the dual national to return to her residence in the UK, where her husband has been working for her release.

“We have just heard the sad news that Nazanin’s extension has been refused and she has returned to prison,” read a tweet on the official “Free Nazanin” Twitter account.

“Here is the moment she said goodbye to a distraught Gabriella,” it added, along with a picture of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her four-year-old daughter, Gabriella.

Speaking of separating from her daughter, Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: “I couldn’t bear her tears. Nothing is worse than her tears. I cannot forget her face”, according to the Twitter account.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker with the Thompson Reuters Foundation, was reunited on Thursday with members of her family outside the Iranian capital, Tehran, after the unexpected three-day furlough.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said they had received “mixed messages” from the Iranian authorities on Sunday, in advance of her return to Evin prison.


She had initially been told her request for an extension had been approved, but then received a call telling her to return to prison by sunset, according to a statement by Ratcliffe.

“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,” Ratcliffe said.

“She wanted to say goodbye to Gabriella calmly and left her in the care of her mother. Her father has taken Nazanin back to prison,” he said in an email received by AFP news agency.

“She was shivering and shaking and crying – and said: ‘How can you take me away from my baby when she needs me’?” 

Espionage charges

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned on espionage charges since 2016, when she was detained for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the Iranian government by running a journalism training programme while visiting Iran to introduce her young daughter to her grandparents.

She was jailed for five years in July 2016, three months after her initial arrest at Tehran airport as she was heading back to the UK.

She has denied the sedition charge levelled against her, insisting she was in the country on a family visit with her daughter. 

In May, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned to court without a lawyer present under a new charge of “spreading propaganda” against the government.

During the hearing, she was reportedly warned of an additional conviction and an extended jail sentence.

In a statement on Thursday, Amnesty International called for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “full and unconditional release”, describing her as “a prisoner of conscience who should never have been jailed in the first place”.

The rights group’s call was echoed by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said in a post on Twitter that efforts to win a permanent release for Zaghari-Ratcliffe would continue.

Iran does not recognise dual nationality and has been treating her solely as an Iranian citizen in the case.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Iran has arrested several dual nationals who have travelled to the country in recent years.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies