Toddler ‘forced to wear sack on head’ during Iran jail visits to mum Nazanin

Gabriella playing dressing up games

Gabriella playing dressing up games - Credit: Archant

The husband of jailed West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, who is on trial in Iran, has revealed how his two-year-old daughter was forced to wear a sack over her head when she visited her mother in prison.

Nazanin and Richard Ratcliffe with daughter Gabriella

Nazanin and Richard Ratcliffe with daughter Gabriella - Credit: Archant

On April 3, charity worker Nazanin - who has dual Iranian and British nationality - was arrested with Gabriella, at Tehran airport as they prepared to return home from a holiday visiting family.

Nazanin was thrown into jail without charge and Gabriella’s British passport was confiscated.

The toddler is now being looked after by her Iranian grandparents while Nazanin stands trial.

Father Richard Ratcliffe described how Gabriella was allowed to visit Nazanin in Tehran’s Evin prison following her trial in the Revolutionary Court on August 14.

Nazanin and Gabriella together before the arrest

Nazanin and Gabriella together before the arrest - Credit: Archant

In an emotional blog post, he said that guards had expressed anger at some of the articles in the British media.

He said: “Their anger prevented Nazanin’s mother from seeing her. Invited to Evin Prison for the subsequent family visit, she was made to wait outside, while Nazanin’s father took Gabriella in.

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“They were marched through the corridors with a sack over their heads.

“Even inside prison, sackcloth is the standard issue silencer for the Revolutionary Guard. Even for family visits.

Nazanin and Richard Ratcliffe on their August wedding day seven years ago

Nazanin and Richard Ratcliffe on their August wedding day seven years ago - Credit: Archant

“I am glad Gabriella is young enough to enjoy dressing up games,” he said in an emotional blogpost.

Accountant Richard has campaigned tirelessly for her release and the Ham&High has printed a stream of articles about her plight.

Now the distraught husband has vowed to keep speaking out, despite the guards anger and subsequent warnings to keep silent about the case.

Nazanin’s trial was held at a secret location behind closed doors with no family allowed at the proceedings,

Richard Ratcliffe with padlocks tied to a bridge to mark his 7th wedding anniversary without Nazanin

Richard Ratcliffe with padlocks tied to a bridge to mark his 7th wedding anniversary without Nazanin - Credit: Archant

Richard told the Ham&High: “A week after the trial, the Judge is still considering what charges to set. We are still unclear on what Nazanin is actually charged with.”

Her lawyer’s application for her to be bailed was refused on August 17.

Richard said that during the proceedings, trial Judge Salavati expressed concern about the media coverage of Nazanin’s case.

He said: “In the trial one of the key allegations against Nazanin is the fact that her detention has attracted media coverage. Because over one hundred newspaper articles have covered her and Gabriella’s story, and that her husband has extensively protested her innocence, this is evidence of her guilt.”

Because of this I have had anguished requests from my in-laws, amd suggestions from the Revolutionary Guard, preferring me not to speak.”

Richard said: “I was quiet for over a month, while Nazanin was kept in such cruelty. I will be quiet again when Nazanin and Gabriella are back home. Not before.

“I speak out for lots of reasons. Because the truth still feels the best response to bullying.

“Because it keeps my head straight – all these changing stories and secrets, promises and threats seem designed to bewilder, mind games to make our imaginations run wild. Documenting is my audit trail against these games.

“But mostly, I speak because you are watching. Right now, your watching is what keeps Nazanin safe. Because you can see the sound and fury around her for what it is, you see the guards for what they are. And you see us.

“You keep us in the light. And because that will see us home.”

Read Richard’s blog here and sign the petition to #FreeNazanin

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