Friday, 8 May 2020

Fears rise Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be returned to Iran jail

Concern over British-Iranian dual-national after another prisoner ordered back to prison

The husband of the British-Iranian dual-national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says he fears his wife may be returned to jail in Iran in the next few weeks after another prominent prisoner was ordered back behind bars.

Aras Amiri, a UK-based Iranian national and former British Council employee, was ordered back to jail at the weekend after being furloughed on 9 April.

Nearly half of Iran’s political or security prisoners were released as part of a wider prisoner release programme implemented amid fears Covid-19 was about to sweep through Iran’s jails.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been staying at her parents’ home in Tehran since the middle of March, when she was released and made to wear an electronic tag.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe following her release from prison in March. Photograph: Free Nazanin campaign/AFP via Getty Images
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said: “Our thoughts are with Aras and her family. Walking back into prison is no easy thing. For Nazanin’s case, I am interpreting Aras Amiri’s return as a bad sign, that the wind is threatening to change. Others are also being summoned.

“I take it as a signal to the UK that patience is not infinite, and that we all continue to be in their chess game. I have asked the Foreign Office for the UK ambassador in Tehran to go and visit Nazanin, for the added diplomatic protection, and the signal that the government is not afraid even in Iran to stand publicly by its citizens.”

Another British-Iranian, Anoosheh Ashoori, has been kept in jail on the basis he was serving a longer sentence, even though at the age of 66 he was more vulnerable to the disease than younger prisoners serving shorter sentences.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s daughter is in London, and the family have been in daily contact via Skype.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has more than a year to serve of a five-year sentence imposed in 2016, has not been granted clemency as her family hoped. Some signals have been sent about Iran’s ministry of foreign affairs seeking a prisoner swap, mainly for US prisoners, on the basis that imprisoned Iranians in US jails were at risk from Covid-19. but nothing substantive has occurred. The most likely time for a mass enforced return to jails will be after the end of Ramadan in less than a fortnight.

Tensions between Iran and the west have risen again with the US threatening to find a way to prevent a five-year arms embargo on Iran expiring in October, as stipulated in the original 2015 nuclear deal. The US is claiming it is still legally a party to the nuclear deal it signed in 2015, even though Donald Trump withdrew in 2018. By being party to the deal, the US can call for the reimposition of sanctions against Iran that existed before 2015.

Majid Takht-e-Ranchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, told Etemad newspaper the US position was a joke, but the US move places diplomatic pressure on the UK, France and Germany, the three European signatories to the deal.

(Source: The Guardian)

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