UK officials have raised the plight of jailed Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe amid reports that her prison in Tehran has been struck by a coronavirus outbreak.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the hardline regime’s denial that the global pandemic was affecting inmates at its punishing Evin penitentiary should not be regarded as ‘authoritative’.

He told MPs today that UK officials are trying to find out more information as the country struggles with an outbreak centered on a Shia Islam holy site.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian national, has been behind bars for four years after being convicted of trumped-up spying charges. Her husband Richard is leading a campaign for her release.

Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons today: ‘It is a particular concern that the coronavirus has been rumoured – but I emphasise rumoured and not confirmed – to be in the prison in Evin where Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is.

‘The UK ambassador to Iran has raised this with the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs and we’re in contact with our international partners on this issue.

‘The Iranian authorities have denied this at the moment, but I must confess I for one would not always take as authoritative denials issued by the Iranian government.’

He added: ‘The Government is trying to do what it can in this very serious issue.’

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport while travelling to show her young daughter, Gabriella, to her parents in April 2016.

She was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government.

She was later afforded diplomatic protection by the UK Government, which argues that she is innocent and that her treatment by Iran failed to meet obligations under international law.

A total of 26 people have died so far in Iran, the world’s highest death toll outside of China, where the outbreak began.

Tehran confirmed today that infected cases in the country had spiked by over 100, to 254.

Those with the virus in the Islamic Republic now include Iranian vice president Masoumeh Ebtekar, state media reported.

The virus’ epicenter in the Islamic Republic is the holy Shiite city of Qom, where the faithful in reverence reach out to kiss and touch a famous shrine.

That shrine and others have remained open, despite Iran’s civilian government calling for them to be closed.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest sites over the new coronavirus, potentially disrupting the plans of millions of faithful ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and as the annual hajj pilgrimage looms.

Source » dailymail