A charity worker and mother who has been detained for more than 100 days in Iran has suffered dangerous weight loss, lost some of her hair and became virtually unable to walk, a letter to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claims.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held in prison in Iran for more than three months, during which she has spent around six weeks in solitary confinement causing her health to deteriorate, the letter alleges.
The letter, from a law firm on behalf of her husband Richard Ratcliffe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation where Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe works as a project manager, urged Mr Johnson to take on this “harrowing and urgent matter”.
In June Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRG) claimed Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe had participated in the “design and implementation of cyber and media projects to cause the soft toppling of the Islamic Republic” – an accusation her husband, from West Hampstead, London, branded “crazy”.
The couple’s daughter, two-year-old Gabriella, had her passport confiscated when her mother was arrested at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran on April 3 and is being looked after in Iran by her grandparents who speak little English.
The letter reads: “We appreciate that you have just taken over the role as Foreign Secretary and will be facing many competing pressing demands.
“But the plight of Nazanin is of utmost urgency and cannot continue to be ignored. She has been subjected to the harshest of injustice, and it is critical that she now receives the full immediate support and attention from the highest levels of Government.”
It continues: “We ask you to do all in your power to secure the freedom of this entirely innocent and increasingly frail and desperate young woman, who is a citizen of London with (dual) British nationality, and to bring her and her two-year old British daughter back to England.”
Mr Ratcliffe previously claimed his wife was being held as a “bargaining chip”, after the IRG informed Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family at the end of June that they are holding her to pressure the UK government into an agreement and would close her case if this was reached.
He delivered letters to Downing Street for outgoing prime minister David Cameron and his replacement Theresa May earlier in July on his wife’s 100th day in custody, urging them to do what they can to secure the release of the “political prisoner”. Nearly 800,000 people have signed a Change.org petition in support.
Speaking about his last telephone conversation with Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe around a month ago, Mr Ratcliffe said: “She was just really sad and it was quite emotional: she cried and I cried. She said she was exhausted about how long it had gone on for and just ‘please do what I could’.”
It will be their seventh wedding anniversary on August 14 which is traditionally associated with wool and Mr Ratcliffe plans to highlight his separation from his wife by attaching a padlock and knotted wool to a London bridge.
He said there had been some positive signals recently but he had “learnt not to get his hopes up too much”.
Earlier in July, the Foreign Office updated its advice warning dual Iranian-British citizens that there was a risk of their being “arbitrarily detained” in Iran, and noting “serious concerns that the subsequent judicial process falls below international standards”.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We have received the letter and will respond formally. We are deeply concerned by recent reports that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been charged but has not been allowed to see a lawyer. We have been supporting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family since we were first made aware of her arrest in April.
“Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood has personally met the family to reassure them that we will continue to do all we can on this case.”