Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returns to prison in Iran after furlough extension denied

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British mother of one held in Iran on espionage charges, has been sent back to prison after requests to extend a three-day furlough were rejected. 

Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe’s family said the 40 year old was "shaking and crying" after prosecutors withdrew an earlier promise of an extension to her temporary release on Sunday afternoon. 

"Nazanin’s extension was not granted, and she has been taken back into prison this evening," her husband Richard Ratcliffe said in a statement.

"Rather than being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night, and the upset that would cause to Gabriella, Nazanin has decided to return to Evin prison, as per the orders of the Prosecutors Office," he added. 

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual Iranian-British national, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport when she and her then 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, were about to return to the UK after a family visit.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, was jailed for five years after being accused of seeking a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic Republic.

She was released on a three-day furlough to spend time with her daughter, now four, on Thursday. Gabriella has been living with Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe’s parents in Tehran since the arrest.

Mr Ratcliffe said prosecutors on Sunday morning initially told his wife and her lawyer that a request for extended furlough had been granted because of good behavior. 

They were later informed that the necessary papers had not been signed and that she would have to return to Tehran’s Evin prison by sunset on Sunday. 

"This feels a dark world. I used to pray – but these past two years I’ve lost much of my faith. Who would take a child from their mother?" Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe said in comments released by her family.

"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 said.  

The family released a new photograph showing the mother cuddling her daughter before she was driven back to prison by her father on Sunday evening. 

Amnesty International called the decision a "crushing disappointment" and called on the British government to push Iran to release her permanently. 

“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," Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said.

Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe is one of several British dual nationals being held in Iran. 

Human rights groups have accused the Iranian government of using the British and other dual national prisoners as leverage in diplomatic disputes with Western countries, including over £300 million Britain owes Tehran for an unfulfilled 1970s arms deal. 

Leave a Reply