By Roland Oliphant
Thursday, 22 December 2016
ABritish woman jailed in Iran is being pressured to take her daughter into prison with her or give up custody.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, has been told that she must chose between taking her two-year old daughter, Gabriella, into a Tehran’s notorious Evin prison or sign away her rights to be with her daughters, her husband Richard Ratcliffe told the Telegraph.
“The ultimatum is that Gabriella lives with her three days a week in prison or she signs a paper waiving her rights of custody," he said.
"She is deeply wary of having Gabriella move into prison partly because prison is horrible, and partly because after a hunger strike she does not have the strength to look after her three days a week,” he said.
[In Iran] a mother prisoner with a child under the age of six must be with the child. They are coming under internal pressure for breaking their own lawsRichard Ratcliffe, husband
Mr Ratcliffe, who was informed about the ultimatum in a recent phone call with his wife two weeks ago, said as far as he is aware the ultimatum has not yet been enforced.
He said his wife has requested longer visits, either on full day or two half day visits per week.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years in prison in September following a conviction on unspecified "national security-related" offences following a trial before a Revolutionary Court in the capital Tehran.
The 37-year old charity worker has been in custody – much of it solitary confinement – since being detained by the Revolutionary Guard Corps on April 3.
Mrs Ratcliffe, who has dual British-Iranian nationality, was on holiday visiting her parents in Tehran. She was arrested at the check-in desks of Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Gabriella was left in the care of her grandparents after the arrest.
| Richard Ratcliffe (right) petitioned the Foreign Office and Downing Street urging Boris Johnson to prioritise a meeting with the families of two jailed dual nationals CREDIT: PA WIRE
The authorities retained the child’s British passport – the only one she possesses – meaning that Gabriella is trapped inside Iran.
Mr Ratcliffe said the recent ultimatum appeared to be a response to criticism that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been separated from her child.
“There is a law in Iran that is that a mother prisoner with a child under the age of six must be with the child. They are coming under internal pressure for breaking their own laws,” said Mr Ratcliffe.
So far she has been allowed just one hour-long visit with her daughter per week. Those visits have also occasionally been blocked, even though all prisoners are allowed one family visit a week under Iranian law, Mr Ratcliffe said.
Mr Ratcliffe says his wife’s physical and mental health has suffered severely since her sentencing, and has expressed alarm since a hunger strike in November. In October, she wrote a suicide letter.
The Revolutionary Guard has accused her of attempting to orchestrate a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic republic. Her husband says those allegations are untrue.
Amnesty International, which considers Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe a prisoner of conscience, said Iran had been “playing politics” with her case.
Kathy Voss, Amnesty International UK’s Individuals At Risk Campaign Manager, said: “The Iranian authorities should release Nazanin and end this cruel charade of justice immediately. Meanwhile up until she’s released, Nazanin should be allowed extended contact with her daughter.”