Who is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and why has she been detained in Iran?

BRITISH mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will be detained for five years in an Iranian jail over spying allegations.

The British-Iranian was locked up in the Islamic Republic in 2016 and was denied access to medical care, here's the latest on her ongoing ordeal.

Who is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British-Iranian mum, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation – the charitable arm of the news agency – and a former BBC employee.

She was arrested in Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport on April 3, 2016, and accused of plotting to topple the regime.

Nazanin was stopped from returning home to Britain after visiting family with her daughter Gabriella, now four, and thrown into prison, where she spent months in solitary confinement.

Her family says Iran’s Revolutionary Guard tried to get her to confess on camera that she trained and recruited spies – a charge she denied.

Recently Jeremy Hunt issued his latest pleas in support of Nazanin, who is currently on hunger strike.

The Foreign Secretary told the commons: "Whatever disagreements you have with the UK, do not punish this innocent woman."

Mr Hunt said that Mr Ratcliffe, who is on hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy, was a "very brave man" who was doing a "remarkable job".

Why is the Brit mum in jail?

Nazanin was convicted of plotting the "soft toppling" of the Iranian government and sentenced to five years behind bars.

She was set to become eligible for early release in late 2017 or early 2018 but was hauled back to court and confronted with two new charges that could see 16 years added to her sentence.

She was accused of joining and receiving money from organisations working to overthrow the Islamic Republic.

Iran says Nazanin’s former employer, the BBC, is trying to topple the Islamic theocracy.

The dual national is also accused of protesting outside the Iranian embassy in London.

On August 23, 2018, she was given a three-day release from prison to visit her daughter – who is staying with an Iranian family.

Fears had been growing for her mental wellbeing, as reports claimed Nazanin was "suicidal" as she awaited a round of sentencing.

The mum is just one of several dual nationals held in Iran on espionage charges, likely to be used as bargaining chips in future negotiations with the West.

A UN panel of experts recently described the practice as part of an "emerging pattern" since the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

On May 21, 2018, she was dealt a fresh blow when a Iranian judge told her to expect another conviction after appearing in court over a new "invented" charge.

On December 24, 2018, Nazanin's husband Richard joined Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to brand her incarceration in Iran on spying charges a "travesty of justice".

Campaigners have launched a fresh bid to free the British mum.

Yesterday Foreign Office minister Andrew Murrison pressed Iran for the "urgent and unconditional release" of the British mum during a trip to Iran.

But Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Abbas Mousavi said: "Mrs Zaghari is an Iranian. She has been convicted on security charges and is spending her sentence in prison."

Her dual nationality is not recognised by Iranian laws.

When did she return to jail?

A ray of hope emerged before Christmas 2017 after Nazanin was told she was "eligible for early release".

Nazanin's lawyer told the 40-year-old that her case was marked on the Iranian judiciary database as "eligible" for early release.

However, nothing came of the matter and she was stuck in the prison.

In August 2018 she was given a three-day release from jail to visit her daughter.

Emotional pictures released by the family showed smiling Nazanin hugging her daughter Gabriella as they were reunited.

She spent time with her family in Damavand, a town north east of Tehran.

The Free Nazanin campaign claimed Evin prison guards told her she had just ten minutes to get ready before leaving.

It added that she "dressed and packed quickly as her cellmates gathered round".

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was hauled back into prison on August 26th.

The 40-year-old had spent three days with four-year-old Gabriella and was hoping to get an extension to her temporary release.

However, despite promises from prosecutors that her furlough from jail would be extended, hours later she was back behind bars.

Speaking of the moment she was told to go back to prison, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said: "Nazanin waited for Gabriella to wake up before saying goodbye, and left her family home to return to Evin prison.

"She promised Gabriella that the next time she saw her it would be forever not just for a few days, for proper freedom, not just for furlough. And next time they will go back to London to be with daddy."

Nazanin decided to go into the prison voluntarily rather than be dragged out of the house in front of Gabriella when the Iranian authorities refused to prolong her release.

What happened to Nazanin’s husband and daughter?

Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, an accountant who lives in North London, was not with her when she was arrested, and has been campaigning for her release ever since.

He called on the Government to do more to secure his wife’s freedom and set up a petition last year demanding action.

Richard blasted the latest charges by Iran, dismissing them as “games” that make the country “look foolish” and bring its legal system into disrepute.

In 2017, Boris Johnson was criticised for making a misleading statement about Nazanin, saying that she was "simply teaching people journalism" – a statement her family and her employer said was untrue.

Three days after Johnson's statement to a parliamentary committee, Nazanin was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing, where the foreign secretary's comments were cited as proof she was engaged in "propaganda against the regime."

The couple's daughter Gabriella is being cared for in Tehran by her grandparents after the tot's passport was initially confiscated.

Why was she in hospital?

On August 29, an Iranian journalist tweeted that the British mum had been hospitalised.

Ershad Alijani, who works for France24, tweeted: "Nazanin Zaghari, after an anxiety attack in the prison, (was) transferred to hospital, (and) according her friends in the prison, she was not able to move her arms and legs and finally fainted."

And her husband Richard Ratcliffe told Mirror Online: "She definitely had two panic attacks … and passed out.

"She was definitely transferred to the prison clinic. I have not had it confirmed she has been sent to an external hospital yet."

On December 30, 2018, it was reported she had been denied a doctor visit despite finding lumps in her breast.

Why is Nazanin on hunger strike?

The British mum went on a hunger strike in her Iranian prison cell after being denied access to medical care  after finding lumps in her breast.

Her husband Richard claims she is also in constant pain due to an undiagnosed neurological condition and needs a mammogram and MRI scan, but prison officers have allegedly refused to let her see a doctor.

In protest of the refusals for medical help, Nazanin went on a hunger strike in her cell at Tehran's Evin prison.

She announced her decision  in a joint letter with a fellow prisoner, the human rights activist Narges Mohammadi.

The women said they have planned an initial three-day hunger strike, which was going to be extended until their demands are met.

The letter claimedthe women would go on their first hunger strike from January 14 until 16, 2019.

Her husband hopes the hunger strike would get them to take her "seriously".

Richard told The Observer: "We know a hunger strike has significant physical consequences the longer it goes on for, and Nazanin is feeling a strong sense of trepidation.

"But there aren't many ways she can say, 'enough is enough, take me seriously'."

Nazanin has now been in prison for more than 1,000 days, and spent her 40th birthday on Boxing Day behind bars.


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