Iranian authorities are withholding medical treatment from Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe until she says sorry for going on hunger strike.
The prison holding the British mum, 40, after she was sentenced to five years for spying has reneged on its promise to allow her important health checks.
Bosses are demanding she first writes them a grovelling letter of apology over last month’s protest with fellow political prisoner Narges Mohammadi.
Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said: “They were outraged by the idea they needed to personally apologise to be given health treatment.”
Desperate Nazanin forfeited food for three days to demand denied medical care after finding lumps in both breasts, and suffering numbness and pain in her neck, arms and legs.
The pair ended their strike when the jail agreed to check-ups, but weeks later treatment has again been blocked.
After the strike, Nazanin was allowed to visit the Iranian government-run Health Commission, where a neurologist suggested she was too ill to be in prison.
But although doctors there ordered scans, the prison clinic has blocked them until they receive written apologies from both women.
Nazanin’s extra plea to see a psychiatrist has not been met at all.
Richard said yesterday: “The neurologist said she clearly had a problem and needed scans. The next day she saw a doctor about the lumps and he said they needed to do scans.
“But the scans got blocked by the head of the clinic in the prison who told them they wouldn’t do anything until she had written a personal apology; an apology for the ‘mistakes they made’, meaning the strike. I don’t think he’ll deign to name it.”
He added: “The neurologist hit her with a hammer on the knee and there was no reaction at all. She had no grip in her hand as well. He said, ‘why are you even in prison in a condition like this?’”
Richard explained the manipulation is all the more sickening because the Iranian ambassador is claiming Nazanin is receiving treatment.
Nazanin and Narges have refused to write the letter. But Richard does not believe Nazanin has decided to strike again.
“She is very low,” he said. “It’s not an act of defiance for her, it’s an act of despair. It’s more the sense of ‘What more can I do?’ She is really clear she can’t go on much longer.”
Nazanin was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 and sentenced to five years on accusations of spying.
Iranian prosecutors have told her it is connected to the repayment of a debt owed by Britain to Iran for a cancelled arms deal in the 1970s but neither country has confirmed this.
The charity worker, from London, had been visiting her parents on holiday with her daughter Gabriella.
Gabriella, now four, lives with her maternal grandparents in Tehran so she can visit. But Richard has been refused a visa and has not seen his daughter or wife since they left Britain.
Nazanin’s despair increased last week after the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, a period of clemency when many prisoners were pardoned.
The next opportunity for clemency is the Iranian New Year, on March 21. Richard said: “I think she will keep going until New Year and then heaven help us what happens afterwards.”
This week Gabriella gave a heartbreaking glimpse of life with her “daddy in London” and “mummy in prison”.
Richard is keen she begin school in the UK this autumn, but knowing the importance of having her close to Nazanin, he has always told his wife this is “her decision”. He fears if she is not released next month, it will be an even harder one to make.
“At the moment we are worrying about bringing them both home in March or dealing with the fallout in April,” Richard says.
There is also the fear Gabriella may not be able to come home alone at all.
“We have had mixed messages from the Iranian authorities,” he says.
“The government insisting there is no impediment at all, and the judiciary saying they won’t let her go until her mother’s release. You can’t tell from rhetoric what will happen.”
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