Charity reveals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s years of torture in Iran jail

Medical assessment shows British-Iranian charity worker requires urgent psychiatric care

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British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a victim of torture and requires urgent psychiatric care for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the conditions she suffered in a Tehran jail, according to medical experts.

She also suffered from hair loss and obsessive compulsive disorder, and was forced to hear a female prison guard talking to her daughter repeatedly at a time when she was already highly distressed about being separated from her child.

The details were part of a medical assessment commissioned by human rights group Redress, before Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s return to an Iranian court on Sunday. Redress is calling for her to be recognised as a victim of torture.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said it was unclear what would happen on Sunday. “They said there is a range of possibilities. It getting postponed and not even happening, to it happening but not being clear on what is going on, to it being more serious and ominous," he told the PA news agency. “All of those things are uncertain.”

She finished a five-year sentence in Iran last Sunday on spying charges – which she denies – and spent the past year under house arrest because of Covid-19 in Tehran.

It is claimed her case is linked to a decades-long debt Iran says it is owed by the UK.

The 77-page medical report was sent to the UK government, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, to be permanently released so she can be reunited with her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella, 6.

"The interrogations were traumatising," she is quoted as saying in the report. "They were threatening to send my child away, told me my husband was a spy, that he had already left me, that he was lying to me, that he worked for the British intelligence service.

"They said he was unfaithful, they said he was not an accountant and that he had always been lying to me. They told me I had been fired from my job."

Redress said that at the beginning of her sentence in 2016 Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was interrogated for hours on end, often blindfolded and held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell.

"The light was left on all the time, there was only a dirty mat on the floor with a thin blanket to sleep on," she is quoted as saying. "There were times I could not breathe."

Redress also said: “She experiences ongoing physical pain and impairment in her neck, right shoulder and arm, which arose as a result of her treatment and the denial of medical care.”

The charity released a letter from the findings of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, which was conducted by two doctors over three days in October 2020.

That letter says that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe “is in urgent need of psychiatric pharmacological and psychotherapeutic support, as well as evaluation and treatment of her physical symptoms”.

“Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s pain and suffering have not abated due to her release from imprisonment to house arrest,” the letter says.

“While she is not feeling as acute stress as she did when she was in prison, she continues to relive and suffer from the serious and long-lasting traumatising issues she experienced during the past five years.

“In the long term, without reunification with her family in the UK and effective treatment, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s conditions will become chronic and potentially deteriorate. Her psychological symptoms and disorders will be unable to resolve themselves and will become chronic and potentially worsen.”

The family's MP in London, Tulip Siddiq, said she hoped Mr Johnson would take time to read the report to realise the full extent of her ordeal.

Mr Johnson spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by phone on Wednesday and called for the release of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other British-Iranian prisoners.

The prime minister's office said Mr Johnson told Mr Rouhani that “her continued confinement remains completely unacceptable and she must be allowed to return to her family in the UK”.

Although she has completed her sentence, Iran has continued to hold her passport before a new court appearance on Sunday. Ms Siddiq has warned that the worst case scenario is another five-year jail term on trumped up charges.

Redress director Rupert Skilbeck said that the UK should publicly acknowledge that Nazanin is a victim of torture in Iran and do "everything in its power" to protect her from further harm.

Mr Skilbeck said despite the efforts of the UK's Foreign Office that its policy “has ultimately failed to protect Nazanin from torture.”

“It is our view that governments have a positive obligation under international law to respond when their citizens have been subjected to torture, given the nature of the absolute prohibition against torture,” Mr Skilbeck said.