British-Iranian jailed for sedition ‘at breaking point’
LONDON: A British-Iranian woman serving a five-year jail sentence after being accused of sedition in Iran has reached “breaking point” and considered suicide, rights group Amnesty said yesterday.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced in September for taking part in anti-regime protests in 2009, although the exact charges remain unpublished. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, told Amnesty that her health has “sharply deteriorated in recent weeks” and that she had reached “breaking point”. “He said her spirits had sunk so low that she even wrote a suicide letter to him and her family,” said the statement.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is suffering from heart palpitations, pain in her hands, arms and shoulders and blurred vision, Amnesty said. On November 13, she went on hunger strike. “During an emergency family visit... Nazanin’s mother collapsed when she saw how thin her daughter had become since her imprisonment,” it said. She decided to end the hunger strike on Friday “for the sake of her baby daughter.”
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last month ruled that her arrest and imprisonment had breached several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on April 3, at the end of a visit with her two-year-old daughter Gabriella to see family members. Her daughter remains in Iran, and is being cared for by her grandparents.
Infant daughter stranded
Her husband fears his wife has become a political pawn and criticized Britain’s efforts to secure her release. “I think the UK is trying not to respond to that and it’s caught up between the part of Iran that wants to make friends and the part that wants to stop that,” he told a London press conference last month.
Ratcliffe pointed to Canada’s success in securing the release of IranianCanadian anthropologist Homa Hoodfar, who had been held in the same cell as his wife. Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards has accused Zaghari-Ratcliffe of having taken part in the “sedition movement” of widespread protests that followed the 2009 re-election of former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Her daughter Gabriella was born in Britain and has a British passport, which was confiscated by the Iranian authorities, leaving her stranded with her grandparents in Iran, which does not recognize dual-citizenship. Iran and Britain appointed new ambassadors in September for the first time since a mob ransacked the British embassy in Tehran in 2011, as part of a series of measures to boost relations after last year’s nuclear deal. —AFP