British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said Iran’s treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe amounts to torture, in the strongest British government statement on the matter to date.
Raab said in an interview with the BBC that Tehran was using Nazanin in a “cat and mouse” game with Britain, after she was sentenced to prison again.
He added that he believed her detention was illegal according to international law.
The authorities in Iran have detained the 42-year-old mother, who holds dual British and Iranian nationalities, since 2016.
An unidentified Iranian official said after the interview was broadcast on official Iranian television that “London paid the sum of 400 million pounds that it owed Iran to release Nazanin,” but the British Foreign Office confirmed that its position has not changed.
She added that Iran had repeated this claim before without releasing Nazanin.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the ministry is reviewing the options available to end this problem, but will not comment more than that while the human rights discussions are taking place.
Nazanin’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the family had not been informed of any developments, but welcomed any indication from Tehran and viewed it positively.
“My intuition is telling me that we are in the middle of negotiations that have not come to an end yet, and we will pray for ourselves and all families who are suffering like us,” he added.
Kant Zaghari-Ratcliffe had served a five-year prison sentence for espionage, which she denied all the time, and then an additional year was sentenced for anti-regime propaganda, and she was banned from traveling for another year.
Her husband says she is using it as a pressure card on the British government in a dispute with her over an unpaid debt dating back to the 1970s linked to military contracts, and as a pressure card in negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
“Nazanin is being held illegally from the point of view of international law. I think she is being treated in the most painful way. I think the way she is being treated amounts to torture,” Raab said in an interview with Andrew Marr on the BBC.
He added that Iran has an obligation to release her immediately and unconditionally.
‘Legal red line’
Asked if Nazanin was being used as a hostage, Raab said it was hard not to assume this.
“It is clear that it is submitting to the game of cat and mouse, and Iran is trying to use it to pressure the United Kingdom,” he added.
The foreign minister said her imprisonment was not only linked to the amount the UK owed Iran for failing to fulfill the terms of the tank deal.
He added, “We said that we wish we had solved the problem of religion.” But he said that the upcoming elections in Iran that will bring a successor to President Hassan Rouhani, and the negotiations in Vienna on the nuclear agreement with Iran are more important issues.
Ratcliffe, who has not met his wife since 2016, welcomed the Secretary of State’s statements regarding torture, adding that all countries are bound by certain principles in international law, and this also binds Iran.
“What happened has happened, but the government can prevent it from being repeated with others,” he added.
A health evaluation of Nazanin’s situation conducted by the “Raiders” organization, which means human rights, revealed that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Iranian authorities released Nazanin in March due to the Corona crisis and was placed under house arrest and she has not yet returned to prison, and they are planning to appeal her sentence.
Mazanin’s daughter Gabriela was with her when she was arrested, and she was sent back to the UK in 2019 to pursue her studies.
The six-year-old daughter has not yet reached the new ruling issued against her mother, and her father says that he prefers to wait for his wife’s return to prison before informing his daughter.