Iran crisis causing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'palpitations and panic attacks'

10 January 2020, 09:17

Boris Johnson has been urged to end the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Boris Johnson has been urged to end the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Detained Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent a night in a clinic suffering from "palpitations and panic attacks", her husband has said.

Richard Ratcliffe said his British-Iranian wife has suffered due to an increase in tensions in Tehran, which were sparked by the US assassination of General Qassem Suleimani.

Charity worker Nazanin from West Hampstead, London has been serving a five-year prison sentence since 2016 after she was accused of spying - a charge she strongly denies.

The UK Government has been attempting to secure her release after affording her diplomatic protection in March 2019.

The 40-year-old is among as many as five people with dual British-Iranian nationality, or with UK connections, believed to be in prison in Iran at present.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Ratcliffe said: "This is a situation where there is a lot of anger in Iran and a lot of vulnerability, and it's very stressful for the people involved.

"I mean, Nazanin was taken down to the clinic overnight two nights ago, through palpitations and panic attacks.

"So I think it's important for the Government to just do what they can."

He added: "She was put on beta-blockers to calm down.

"We usually expect things to happen a week or 10 days later, so there is a sense of foreboding which is affecting all the prisoners."

Mr Ratcliffe added that he should be meeting Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials later on Friday.

He said: "There's certainly concerns, I think it's a very tough time, and you have heard on the news this morning about other events in Iran, it's just really sad.

"In terms of what contact we have had with the Government, we should be trying to meet with the Foreign Office today, in just a couple of hours' time.

"(We are) really pressing up on the media for a meeting with the Prime Minister.

"So we will be calling to find out when we can do that."

Mr Ratcliffe also urged Boris Johnson to pay a £400 million debt Britain owes Iran, as his wife now fears she will be handed a second jail sentence as Iran seeks revenge on the West.

She is imprisoned at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison that has been accused of committing "serious human rights abuses".

In a phone call between Mr Johnson and the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani the PM pushed for an end to the "detention and mistreatment" of Nazanin and other dual nationals held by Tehran, and demanded their immediate release.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had previously said she felt like a "pawn in the hands of politicians - abroad and in Iran - to reach their goals in their games of chess".

The sum has been outstanding since pre-revolutionary Iran paid the UK for 1,500 Chieftain tanks in the 1970s.

The deal was cancelled after the Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979, but, while Iran has demanded the money back, Britain has so far refused.