’Broken up’: Father fights for wife’s release in Iran

Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella in an undated photo handed out by her family. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017

’Broken up’: Father fights for wife’s release in Iran

LONDON: A British accountant fighting for his wife’s release from an Iranian jail is now at the center of a diplomatic storm that has led to calls for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to resign.
More than 19 months since his wife was arrested at Tehran airport, Richard Ratcliffe told AFP that all he wanted was to be reunited with his wife and daughter in time for the holidays.
“The best case scenario is to get her home by Christmas,” said the softly-spoken 42-year-old.
Dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been jailed on sedition charges while her daughter Gabriella, now three, had her British passport confiscated and has since been living with her grandparents in Iran.
“We’re obviously a very truncated, broken up family at the moment,” said Ratcliffe, who speaks to his wife by phone and has Skype conversations with his daughter.
Via Skype “we can cuddle each other and share food and cups of tea,” he said.
National attention has fallen on his case in recent days, after Johnson last week said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran, comments which the Iranian judiciary has since used to justify her detention.
Her family and employer the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a media charity where she worked as a project manager, have insisted that she was on holiday in Iran.
Johnson has said his words were misinterpreted.
“Suddenly what is just our family’s story gets embroiled in much higher levels of politics, and (I’m) thinking, ‘gosh, I’m out of my depth here’,” said Ratcliffe.
An editorial in The Times on Friday said Johnson’s position was “vulnerable” and would become “untenable” if the Iranian judiciary were to use his remarks to justify further detention of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

But Ratcliffe has refused to get involved in the scandal over Johnson’s remarks, keeping a measured tone in pushing for the British government to help secure her release.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016 and initially spent months in solitary confinement but has been able to speak to her husband once a week since April this year.
She now also receives twice-weekly prison visits from their daughter.
“They colored in a picture of a reindeer at the last visit, because they’re talking about Christmas and going home for Christmas,” said Ratcliffe.
Gabriella, he explained, has requested a pair of red shoes from Father Christmas.
The little girl “barely” speaks English any more, her father said, except for the phrases: “Daddy I like you,” “See you tomorrow” and “I miss you.”
The family is now waiting to see whether Iranian authorities will approve Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s application for early release, which her husband said could happen in two weeks.
She is, however, facing further charges carrying a possible 16-year prison sentence, which her legal team is seeking to have quashed.
A new trial would put the family in a “much darker place,” Ratcliffe said.
But he remains hopeful that the momentum gained in recent days will lead to her release, and give his family the chance to make up for the time they have lost.
“We can’t get that back, what we can do is get her home as soon as possible and then rebuild that family unit and cherish what we will have again.”


Prisoners riot in Iran, region’s worst COVID-19 outbreak

Updated 1 min 34 sec ago

Prisoners riot in Iran, region’s worst COVID-19 outbreak

  • Iran had temporarily released around 100,000 prisoners as part of measures taken to contain the pandemic
  • Prisoners broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections housing violent criminals

TEHRAN: Prisoners in southern Iran broke cameras and caused other damage during a riot, state media reported Monday, the latest in a series of violent prison disturbances in the country, which is battling the most severe coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East.
Iran had temporarily released around 100,000 prisoners as part of measures taken to contain the pandemic, leaving an estimated 50,000 people behind bars, including violent offenders and so-called “security cases,” often dual nationals and others with Western ties.
Families of detainees and Western nations say Iran is holding those prisoners for political reasons or to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations.
The state-run IRNA news agency quoted Gov. Enayatollah Rahimi of the southern Fars province as saying a riot broke out at Adel Abad Prison, the main lockup in the city of Shiraz. Rahimi said prisoners broke cameras and caused other damage in two sections housing violent criminals. No one was wounded and no one escaped.
IRNA reported Friday that 70 inmates had escaped Saqqez Prison in Iran’s western Kurdistan province. Prisoners beat guards during the chaos, a local prosecutor said. Several inmates later returned on their own to the prison.
Since the beginning of the year, riots have broken out in prisons in Aligudarz, Hamedan and Tabriz as well, with some prisoners escaping, IRNA reported.
Iran has reported more than 38,000 infections and 2,640 deaths from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
The virus causes mild symptoms, including fever and cough, in most patients, who recover within a few weeks. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by people showing no symptoms. It can also cause severe illness and death, particularly in older patients or those with underlying health problems.
The virus has infected more than 720,000 people worldwide, causing more than 34,000 deaths, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. More than 150,000 have recovered.