Iran tanker crisis 'ominous' for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, husband says

Josie Ensor
Richard Ratcliffe has not heard from his wife since she was moved on Monday from Tehran’s Evin prison to a psychiatric hospital  - REX

The husband of jailed British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said he is worried her future has become “more uncertain and ominous” after Iran’s seizing of a UK tanker in the Gulf.

Richard Ratcliffe has expressed concerned for his wife, whom he has not heard from since she was moved on Monday from Tehran’s Evin prison to a psychiatric hospital.

Mr Ratcliffe said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, who had recently ended a 15-day hunger strike, has not been allowed contact for almost a week.

“We were hoping now it is the start of a new week in Iran that we might at least get access. Nazanin’s dad is going down today again to try,” Mr Ratcliffe told the Telegraph. “I told the Foreign Office yesterday that in my view we should now regard Nazanin as held incommunicado.”

He said it was not known what treatment she was receiving or how long she was expected to remain in hospital. At Evin prison, she had been allowed regular phone calls to Mr Ratcliffe and her lawyer.

“With the tankers, obviously everything feels rather more uncertain and ominous," he said. 

"It reminds me of the very earliest days when she disappeared under IRGC control," he added. "But I have promised myself I will wait a full week before really panicking."  

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose British nationality is not recognised by Tehran, is serving a five-year sentence for espionage, charges she denies.

Days before she was transferred, she told relatives: "Three and a bit years later (...) look at me now - I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment.

"Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it."

Mr Ratcliffe said he was concerned what the decision by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to move her to hospital meant, as when they were involved "bad stuff happens".

It was the powerful Revolutionary Guard which on Friday seized the British-flagged Stena Impero after warning it would retaliate the UK’s “unlawful” impounding of an Iranian ship.

Amid statements on the crisis in the Strait of Hormuz, Jeremy Hunt, Foreign Secretary, tweeted on Saturday that he was “very concerned about this week's transfer of Nazanin to an IRGC (Revolutionary Guard Corp) hospital. 

“We'd hoped this meant she was getting medical treatment she needs but the fact that she has been cut off from contact with her family is giving us huge cause for concern.”

The Foreign Office has tried to keep separate Mrs Zaghar-Ratcliffe’s case and the military manoeuvrings in the Persian Gulf, but there are concerns they are being linked by the Islamic Republic.