Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spends 40th birthday in jail as her 1,000th day in captivity approaches

‘1,000 days is a very long time to be stuck in a prison cell for something you haven’t done,’ says British charity worker's husband as he issues new call for her release

Adam Lusher
Wednesday 26 December 2018 14:02
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Husband of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe gives Christmas update on British charity worker jailed Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British mother jailed in Iran, is spending her 40th birthday in prison, despite a renewed appeal from her husband for her release.

The jailed charity worker’s birthday is Boxing Day, while December 28 will mark her 1,000th day in captivity since being arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 while trying to return home from holiday with her then 21-month-old daughter Gabriella.

The Iranian authorities have accused her of spying, but her incarceration has been widely condemned as “a travesty of justice”.

In a video message recorded by The Independent, her husband Richard Ratcliffe thanked all those who had supported the campaign to get his wife freed, but admitted: “Christmas is a tough time for us, particularly this year. It is Nazanin’s 40th, which has loomed large as a landmark.

“Also, two days later it will be her 1,000th day in prison, which is a very long time to be stuck in a prison cell for something you haven’t done."

Wearing the scarf his wife knitted for him while in jail in Christmas 2017, Mr Ratcliffe revealed: “This year she is pretty low. A year ago we were sure she would be out before Christmas this year, [but] she’s stuck in a prison cell again.”

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s handling of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case became hugely controversial in November 2017 after he mistakenly said the dual national had been training journalists in Iran, when in fact she just went there on holiday and has never worked as, or trained journalists in her life.

After the then foreign secretary’s gaffe was exploited by the Iranians to bolster their claims that the charity worker was a spy, Mr Johnson pledged to leave “no stone unturned” in his efforts to secure her release.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains in jail.

One Night of Freedom: comedy in solidarity with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

There is suspicion that her chances of release are also being hampered by Britain and Iran haggling over the precise amount of interest the UK should pay to settle a £450m debt arising from an aborted 1970s arms deal.

Gabriella, now four, remains in Iran, being cared for by her grandparents so that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe can retain some sort of contact with her daughter via prison visits.

As his wife prepared for her 40th birthday and her third Christmas in captivity, Mr Ratcliffe said: “She has been trying to keep her spirits up. She made mince pies and a cake for her cellmates, which she has been sharing with them and Gabriella, who had a visit [on 23 December].”

On Christmas Eve, Mr Ratcliffe and London mayor Sadiq Khan issued a joint statement in which they said: "Nazanin has been wrongly detained in an Iranian prison for over two years. She has done nothing wrong, has broken no laws. The charges against her are completely false.

“She is innocent and should not be kept in prison, separated for so long from her family and her young daughter.

"While she's imprisoned, Nazanin continues to suffer both physically and mentally.

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"We – and indeed the whole country – know what a travesty of justice it is that Nazanin continues to be detained.

"Her case, and also those of other dual-nationality prisoners being wrongly held in Iran, have rightly attracted global interest and deep concern.”

The Iranian government has insisted Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment is justified, saying she was “detained due to illegal acts” and was at all times treated fairly and “according to due judicial process”.

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