Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reveals horrors of captivity and accusations husband was a spy

The aid worker was held in solitary confinement after being arrested in Iran and did not see her infant daughter for 40 days

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella, husband Richard and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, after landing at the UK's RAF Brize Norton airbase. EPA

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is enjoying her first taste of freedom in six years, but has shown an unquenchable desire to fight for justice for another dual citizen detained by Iranian authorities.

The mother of one has also revealed grim details about her detainment in Iran, and how the intense interrogations and inhumane conditions in prison affected her health. Officials used cruel tactics and attempted to make her doubt her British accountant husband Richard Ratcliffe, she said.

On one occasion she was left so anxious and psychologically distressed by the aggressive questioning she fell off her chair. On another day she said she cried so much she ended up fainting.

To mark their first day back together, the aid worker released a selfie she took with her spouse and their daughter Gabriella.

The three beamed at the camera as they posed in front of daffodils in the snap released by their local MP, Tulip Siddiq.

She said that hours after Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrived back in Britain, the dual British-Iranian citizen and her British husband “raised the plight of Morad Tahbaz with me”.

“Here I was hoping to sleep for a week,” joked the Labour MP, who for six years campaigned with Mr Ratcliffe for his wife’s release.

Despite the huge amount of work ahead of her, Ms Siddiq said it was “lovely to have uplifting conversations with” the couple on Thursday while they enjoyed time away as a family at a government safe house.

Before his release on furlough this week, Mr Tahbaz, who holds British, Iranian and US citizenships, was being kept in Evin prison in Tehran on charges of espionage after he used cameras to track endangered species as part of his conservation work.

British Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said Mr Tahbaz’s US citizenship had complicated the situation on the Iranian side, but insisted: “We are going to keep working to get him home, to get him fully and properly released.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the UK this week, exactly six years after she flew to Iran to introduce her daughter to her family. Her flight landed at Brize Norton military airbase in Oxfordshire shortly after 1am on Thursday. She was accompanied by Anoosheh Ashoori, a fellow dual citizen who had been detained in Iran for five years.

His daughter Elika said on Friday that her father was not angry with the British government and seemed "fine and in good spirits".

Before boarding a Wednesday morning flight from Tehran to the UK, via Oman, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke about her first weeks in detainment in Tehran. In an interview with Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights activist who has recently been imprisoned in the capital, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe went into detail about her horrific treatment.

After being arrested at the airport while trying to board a flight to the UK with her 22-month-old daughter in April 2016, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to prison and placed in solitary confinement.

“I couldn’t sleep a wink for the first week. My heart palpitated so hard that when I put my head on the blanket it felt as if it would explode,” she said, in an article published by The Telegraph.

From day one she was subjected to interrogations and suffered from bouts of sickness owing to a lack of hygiene and poor quality food.

She said she was kept apart from her daughter for the first 40 days and when she was eventually allowed to see her she felt too weak to stand up.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe revealed that interrogators “threatened that I would receive a heavy sentence unless I confessed to espionage”.

They also tried to raise doubts about her marriage to her husband, telling her she “did not know” him “and that he was a spy and that he had lied about where he worked”.

“They kept telling me I had lost my job and that if interrogation took too long my husband would leave me,” she recalled.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained on security charges in 2016 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday to Iran to introduce her daughter to her parents.

She was accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government and sentenced to five years behind bars on charges that were kept secret. She served the final year of her sentence under house arrest at her parents' home in Tehran before being handed her passport this week and flown out of the country.

Updated: March 18, 2022, 2:07 PM