British woman held in Iran told she can keep two-year-old daughter in prison

A British mother being held in an Iranian prison has been told she can either keep her two-year-old daughter with her in jail or give up custody.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in April on unspecified “national security charges” as she was travelling back to Britain from Tehran after a trip to visit family.

The British-Iranian was with her two-year-old daughter Gabriella at the time. The child, now three, has since been living with her grandparents.

The 37-year-old from Hampstead in north-west London, made the revelation in a recent phone call with her her husband, Richard Ratcliffe.

She told him that she had been ordered by Revolutionary Guard officials to choose between having her daughter stay with her in Tehran’s Evin prison for up to three days a week, or sign a document saying she does not want the “right to be with her young daughter”.

Evin prison authorities imposed the choice in an attempt to counter negative publicity caused by the 37-year-old being separated from her toddler, according to Amnesty International UK.

“This is yet another turn of the screw for Nazanin,” said Kathy Voss, the right’s groups’ Individuals At Risk campaign manager. “What kind of refined cruelty is it that would involve presenting a mother with a ‘choice’ to either jail her own daughter or give her up entirely?

“The Iranian authorities should release Nazanin and end this cruel charade of justice immediately. Meanwhile, up until she’s released, Nazanin should be allowed extended contact with her daughter.

“All along the Iranian authorities appear to have been playing politics with this case. We need to see the UK Government stepping up its efforts to unlock things politically and see that Nazanin is released as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office told The Independent: “We are deeply concerned by reports that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been sentenced without confirmation of the charges made against her. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have both raised her case with their counterparts in Iran and will continue to do so.

“We have been supporting her family since we were first made aware of her arrest and the Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, has met the family to reassure them that we will continue to do all we can.

“While we continue to press the Iranians for consular access and for due process to be followed, we also stand ready to help get her daughter back safely to the UK if requested.”

The Iranian authorities announced earlier this year that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s arrest was linked to her alleged involvement with a network of bloggers imprisoned in 2014 for taking part in journalism training courses.

On 15 June Iran’s Revolutionary Guards released a statement saying she had “participated in devising and carrying out media and cyber projects aimed at the soft overthrow of the government”.

Three months into his wife’s detainment, Mr Ratcliffe delivered a letter to No 10 begging for the Government to intervene, saying he found it “astonishing” that no British minister has publicly criticised Tehran for arresting one of their citizens.

Following a five-day hunger strike his wife staged in protest of her imprisonment in November, Mr Ratcliffe said she was being treated as a “bargaining chip” and accused the UK Government of “not having [his] family’s best interests at heart”.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a media charity worker for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which receives some UK government funding, and previously worked as Project Assistant for the BBC development charity, BBC Media Action.

She was initially held in solitary confinement for several weeks and allegedly denied access to either a lawyer or her family.

Source: / independent /

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