Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Husband Richard says they’re victims of Iranian ‘game’ as West Hampstead mum is jailed again
- Credit: Archant
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s temporary release from Iranian prison left the Hampstead mother – and her husband Richard – under the impression her freedom is “a game” to the Iranian authorities.
Nazanin was allowed to leave Evin prison on Thursday on furlough, only to be told to return just three days later.
Although the furlough was set for three days, typically it is extended – as it has been for some of Nazanin’s cellmates – and her family were hopeful this would be the case,
But two days after his wife’s release was curtailed, Richard Ratcliffe told the Ham&High: “It’s been a really rough week. We had such a positive feeling over Thursday and Friday and I think we all still thought that it was going to be extended.
“It was only on Sunday morning things went downhill and we began to feel differently.”
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On Sunday, Richard explained, Nazanin’s lawyer went to the jail to ask for the furlough to be extended, only to be told to come back with Nazanin.
Even throughout Sunday, Nazanin was led to believe she would be able to keep her freedom, until a late phone call from the prosecutor’s office – who had told her she would have furlough extended earlier that day – summoned her back to prison.
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Richard added: “We’re still trying to orientate ourselves with what’s happened, what’s new, and what’s next. We don’t quite know where we’re at yet, or what this means, but it does feel negative.
“We feel it’s all a game for them.”
According to Richard, Nazanin’s mood is now even lower than before her release.
He said: “She woke up in the morning and heard a child crying, and it spooked her – it wasn’t Gabriella, and I think she felt that her release had seemed nothing more than a dream.
“She had cried all the way back to prison, I spoke to her on the phone, and then she cried back in prison. Her cellmates and even some guards cried – everyone had thought she wouldn’t be back on the ward.”
During her release, Nazanin was able to stay with her parents, daughter and extended family. She was particularly delighted to be reunited with daughter Gabriella, and accordingly devastated to be parted from her on Sunday.
Richard said Nazanin told him: “How can I survive tonight – with those tears of my baby, pouting and crying, and telling me she doesn’t want me to go back?
“She is adorable, and she is also kind and caring. I couldn’t bear her tears.”
Richard confirmed Nazanin was told she would need to return to prison while an extension was approved, but that when Iran informed the British Embassy of the situation the latter was not told of this – or of a potential second release on furlough.
He added: “Our phone call today [Monday] was as difficult as it’s ever been. She’s so distraught – worse than before she was allowed out.”
Nazanin has now been imprisoned for almost 900 days, with her family still hopeful the foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who Richard again thanked for his clear and sincere public statements, will offer her diplomatic protection.
Mr Hunt tweeted that he was disappointed by Nazanin’s return to jail. He said: “Looks like Iranian legal system is impervious to the simple fact at the heart of this: an innocent woman is desperate to be reunited with her family. Spoke to foreign minister Zarif on Fri but that clearly wasn’t enough. The fight goes on #FreeNazanin.”
Meanwhile, Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “This is a crushing disappointment. There were real hopes that not only would her three-day furlough be extended, but that her permanent and unconditional release was also just around the corner.”
She continued by calling on the UK government to step in to speed up the process and added: “We shouldn’t lose sight of what Nazanin has had to endure – nearly two and a half years behind bars, eight gruelling months of solitary confinement without a lawyer, a deeply unfair trial, and being subjected to a string of unfounded accusations from the Iranian authorities.
“Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been jailed in the first place.”