The husband of a British-Iranian charity worker jailed over claims of conspiring against the regime in Tehran says legal action is being planned over ‘shocking’ new claims made against his wife.
The fresh allegations levelled against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe have been broadcast on Iranian state television, just days after a date was set for a new court appearance next month (December 10).
The family say they understand new charges of spreading propaganda will be laid. The mother is already serving a five-year jail sentence.
There is serious concern about the health and mental state of Nazanin, who says she was simply visiting family in Iran. Her young daughter, who was travelling with her, is being looked after by family in Tehran.
Euronews’ Seamus Kearney spoke to Nazanin’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, from London, asking him for his reaction to the latest claims on Iranian state television.
Richard Ratcliffe: “There’s been a whole new series of allegations which have been quite shocking, I have to say, from our side. Obviously Nazanin’s been in the news for a couple of weeks in Iran, and obviously in the news here for a very long time. But some really strident allegations, particularly in the Iranian media, about how she was involved in some big MI6 plot and her charity work for the BBC many years ago is being built up as some big grand thing that it really wasn’t. And using her university letter, her pay slips, lots of things taken from her personal emails, so it’s been a real violation.
“She was deeply traumatised by it, had to go down to visit the prison clinic and had to be given sedatives through injections to calm her down on the night of it. And certainly I’m appalled that this could be happening. Certainly, the question that you asked about what’s going on? We were hoping that the foreign secretary (Boris Johnson) was going to go to Iran and was going to be able to find a solution. It’s really not a good sign that she’s being taken back to court on December the 10th and that there’s this very aggressive propaganda campaign that’s being put out in the media.”
Seamus Kearney: “And there have been these questions about whether the government’s doing enough, particularly Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, accused of making comments that didn’t help the case. What can be done? What kind of pressure can be put on the government and Boris Johnson?”
Richard Ratcliffe: “I’ve certainly been very critical for a long time about the government not doing enough, and not doing enough publicly. And the government would always say ‘you don’t know what you don’t know and you don’t know what we’re doing behind the scenes’. But following the foreign secretary’s comments, she did get taken to court and every other night his comments are being used in some media piece by the Iranians to say that she was involved in something that she wasn’t, and that she wasn’t just on holiday.
“I think it’s really important that the government refuted that which they’ve done and that the foreign secretary gets to Iran as soon as possible. I’ve asked to go with him, and again on Friday I chased up with both the Foreign Office and the Iranian Embassy for a visa so that I can be there in time for that trial.”
Seamus Kearney: “What can be done now about these new allegations? How can they be refuted by yourself or by the government? Is that being done?”
Richard Ratcliffe: “Yes, in fairness, the TV programme said there was going to be two parts, so we’re just waiting to see what else they’re going to try to say. But yes we’ve been talking to the media and challenging. And obviously there’s an element which is that there are some things which are true – she did work for the BBC – but it’s then taken as sort of a big elaborate myth of fantasy that’s built around it. And beyond that, I think she will try to take the case to court in Iran. Obviously it’s illegal to be taking things from a personal email and using them in that way, particularly in the middle of a live court case. So she’s asking her lawyer in Iran to follow up as well.
“Beyond that, I think it’s diplomatic pressure and that’s where the Foreign Office needs to be very clear. The foreign secretary needs to be very clear that it is unacceptable to treat a British citizen in this way. Beyond that we’ve asked for the foreign secretary to consider giving Nazanin diplomatic protection, which is a legal status, which would give her much more coverage, and we’re hoping to meet with our lawyers and their lawyers to discuss that.” *
Seamus Kearney: “With all of these developments we’ve been hearing about, how is Nazanin doing?”
Richard Ratcliffe: “She’s been really traumatised. She’s obviously pretty fragile, very up and down, various health concerns, particularly probably mentally. It’s a really traumatic experience to be kept in solitary confinement for so long and then to have your life put out in the media. But in ways that are partly true – with friends, pictures of friends and pictures of family – but then also complete fabrications, around being an MI6 agent and the rest of it.
“So she’s been very fragile and has been down to the doctor’s quite a lot and again was trying to see a psychiatrist just to be able to talk (things) through, as that had been banned for a few weeks. So I have deep worries about her mental health.”