UK Voices Concern after Jailed British-Iranian Aid Worker is Taken to Hospital

Wednesday, 17 July, 2019 - 10:15
Asharq Al-Awsat

London demanded the immediate release Wednesday of a jailed British-Iranian aid worker whose husband said she has been transferred to the mental ward of a public hospital in Tehran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was moved from Tehran’s Evin prison to the psychiatric ward of Imam Khomeini hospital in the capital, the Free Nazanin Campaign, which is led by Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, said in a statement.

"We are extremely concerned about Nazanin's welfare and call for her immediate release," Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said.

"We urge Iran to allow family members to visit her and check on her care."

UK Foreign Office minister Andrew Murrison said Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband had told him that she was moved to the ward on Monday.

"It would be indeed cruel to deny this lady, in a psychiatric ward of a public hospital, access to her family. That must happen immediately," he told parliament.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has described her detention conditions to her family over the phone as "completely contrary to international norms," he added.

She was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit and was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment.

Her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News, deny the charge.

Last month Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband ended a two-week hunger strike designed to push for her release and raise the profile of her case.

The Free Nazanin Campaign said Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s father visited the hospital on Tuesday, and confirmed that she is being held there under the control of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

It said he was denied access to see her despite waiting for several hours.

“This is unusual. She has now been kept isolated from family or legal contact under IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) control for over 36 hours,” the campaign group said.

It said her father was unable to establish what treatment she is receiving or the IRGC’s agenda, and added it was not known how long she will be held in the hospital.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has previously raised the possibility of Zaghari-Ratcliffe being swapped for Iranian nationals held in the United States and Australia.

He told the BBC in an interview aired Wednesday that he also supported the idea of Zaghari-Ratcliffe being released on humanitarian grounds.

"That's not a decision for me to take, but that is an ideal situation for which I have tried and I will continue to try," Zarif said when asked about the possibility of her being "released soon on compassionate grounds".

"I am not happy to see a single individual in prison and I'll do my best to address that to the maximum of my capacity and my capability," Zarif said.

"But as foreign minister, I am responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs of the country. And she is an Iranian citizen."

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