The husband of a British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran on secret charges says there is “more fight in her”, after she was freed from solitary confinement.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, a charity worker with dual nationality, was arrested in April by members of the Revolutionary Guard at Tehran airport as she tried to fly back to Britain after visiting her parents with her young daughter, Gabriella.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said she had now been moved to a unit for political prisoners. He complained of an alleged lack of action by the British government and said his family was being used as a “bargaining chip”.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been accused of plotting to topple the Iranian government, though the exact charges are unclear. Her family insist that she is innocent and believe that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in an Iranian attempt to get the British authorities to pay for an arms deal struck in the 1970s.
Mr Ratcliffe said his wife’s condition had improved since she was moved out of solitary confinement over Christmas. “To go back a month or so ago she was suicidal and on hunger strike and very, very low and at her wits’ end,” he told the Today programme on Radio 4.
“I spoke to her on Christmas Day. She is still very sad and very low but there was more fight in her again. I think having been moved so she is with other women makes a big difference.” The Iranian authorities told Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe last month that she must take her two-year-old daughter into prison with her or surrender custody. The toddler’s passport has been confiscated, and she is staying with her grandparents in Iran. Mr Ratcliffe is trying to obtain a visa to visit.
He believes a £500 million debt over the arms deal may be behind Iran’s actions. “Being caught up as a bargaining chip in international politics is a pretty tough place to be,” he said.
Mr Ratcliffe said he was “pretty cross” about the British government. “They certainly could have stood up for Nazanin a bit more. They have never publicly called for her release. They never criticized her treatment.”
Theresa May raised concerns about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe with President Rouhani of Iran on the margins of the UN general assembly in New York in September. Mr Ratcliffe said: “She raised those concerns. What happened after? Nothing much, really.”
He said more details of the charges against his wife may emerge at an appeal tomorrow. “Who knows how it will go, we live it day by day.”