Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a UK-Iranian woman who was seized by Iranian police at the airport, has just been jailed for five years in Iran on ‘secret charges’.
As previously reported in Grazia, the 37-year-old from West London was arrested at Tehran airport in April after visiting her parents in Iran. She was accused of planning to topple the Government and her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, was taken away from her. Human rights group Amnesty International say her trial was 'a complete travesty of justice throughout.'
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, is stuck here in the UK without his wife and baby. Last month, Richard spoke to Grazia about the horrifying nightmare he’s been living since his family was torn apart five months ago.
Read our interview with Richard below.
When Richard waved off his wife at Gatwick airport in April, their two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, running around the check-in desks excited to see her Iranian grandparents, the family were blissfully unaware of the horror that lurked around the corner.
For when Nazanin, 37, an aid worker at Thomson Reuters Foundation, tried to return home to the UK two weeks later, she was detained at the airport and accused of trying to overthrow Iran’s government. Gabriella was torn from her mother’s arms and put in the care of her grandparents in Tehran, while Nazanin was placed in solitary confinement for 45 days. In June, she was moved to a high-security prison, where she is allowed to see her daughter once a week.
For Richard, hearing his wife’s voice from prison last week for the first time in three months was bittersweet. Finally, he had news: she is to be prosecuted but as yet, she has not been charged with a crime, or been given access to a lawyer. What’s more, the judge who will try her is nicknamed ‘the hanging judge’, so notorious is he for handing down the death sentence.
‘I’m shaken,’ Richard tells Grazia, having just come off the phone to Nazanin the day of her first court appearance. ‘They’ve given her the most hard-line judge. The trial is
a shock and it will be harder to get her back after the trial or conviction.’
He says his wife was deeply upset when they spoke and begged him to get her out. ‘She told me she’s losing her hair and has lost a lot of weight. It’s painful hearing her like this; our home is an empty house without them here. She’s desperate about our daughter being kept away from us for so long.’
At the time of going to press, Nazanin’s trial date had not been set.In Iran, only a parent is allowed to take a child abroad, so the family have been unable to return Gabriella to Richard. It’s too dangerous for Richard to go to Iran, as he would almost certainly be arrested for being critical of the government. He is currently trying to get a visa for his father to attend Nazanin’s trial.
‘A national security crime can range from a one-year sentence to the death penalty,’ says Richard, maintaining a veneer of calm self-possession. ‘They’re suspicious of her because of her links to the media and her dual nationality. But the idea she might be part of some active plot is not only fantasy, it is a deliberate lie. I Skype Gabriella whenever we can. She often points at our wedding picture and asks where Mummy and Daddy are. I can’t bear another day in our empty house without them.’
A Change.org petition launched by Richard to free Nazanin has accrued more than 792,700 signatures. Many friends of the couple have spoken out, desperate to help. Nazanin’s best friend Azadeh Fatehrad tells Grazia, ‘Naz is so smiley, active and sociable. I just can’t imagine how she’s surviving in there.’
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said the former PM and Foreign Secretary raised the case with their counterparts. ‘We are deeply concerned by reports that Mrs Zaghari- Ratcliffe has been charged but has not been allowed to see a lawyer,’ he added. But Richard, who has urged Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to intervene, is frustrated the Government continues to promote trade opportunities in Iran. He says it’s ‘shameful’ the Government hasn’t publicly criticised the Iranian regime for this detention. ‘The Foreign Office could be doing a lot more. A mother and baby have been taken,’ he says.‘This breaks just about all the human rights you can find. I’m trying not to think about what could happen in the long-term. I just want to focus on getting my family back.’
Sign the petition here.