Nazanin ‘asked to spy by Iran in return for freedom’

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been left “terrified” after refusing to spy on Britain for Iran, her husband has said.

The British-Iranian detainee – who has begun a hunger strike over her treatment in prison in Tehran – was said to have been visited by revolutionary guards on 29 December and asked to go undercover.

Speaking at a news conference in London, Richard Ratcliffe said his wife was told that agreeing to the request could see her released after more than 1,000 days behind bars.

“What really pushed her over the edge was they tried to make her become a spy for Iran against the UK,” he said.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran in 2016 1:23
Video: Authorities detain British mum at Tehran airport

“She was told it would be safer for her and safer for her family afterwards if she agreed to do this.

“She was told to think about it and that they would return. She had been terrified ever since.”

The mother-of-one has gone on hunger strike alongside human rights activist and fellow prisoner Narges Mohammadi, who has been charged several times for criticising the Iranian government.

Both are unhappy about being denied access to a doctor and medication at the jail in the capital.

In a joint letter published earlier this month, the pair said: “We are urging for an immediate action to be taken.”

Richard Ratcliffe has been campaigning for his wife to be released from prison
Image: Richard Ratcliffe has been campaigning for his wife to be released from prison

Mr Ratcliffe has previously revealed that his wife, who turned 40 on Boxing Day, has suffered several panic attacks in jail, which left her with numbness in her legs and headaches.

He is due to meet Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt later on Monday and has called on the UK government to seek diplomatic protection for his wife, who has not been back home since being arrested in Iran in April 2016.

Ahead of the meeting, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “[Mr Hunt] has discussed this issue with Richard Ratcliffe, and is keen to take a decision as soon as possible.

“We continue to take action on all our consular cases in Iran in line with what we believe will produce the best outcomes in their cases.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Gabriella, daughter of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. He brought gifts for both of them. Nazanin made dolls for Gabriella and Hunt's own daughter. CREDIT - Pic: @FreeNazanin
Image: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Gabriella, daughter of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Last week, following the release of footage of the moment Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested, Mr Ratcliffe said her rations had been cut and his phone calls reduced in duration since the strike was announced.

The video, which was broadcast on Iranian state TV, showed her pushing a baggage cart along at Imam Khomeini International Airport before handing her passport over to an unidentified man.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north London, is later told by a representative of the public prosecutor that a warrant has been issued for her arrest and that she is barred from leaving the country.

She was eventually charged over claims that she was “plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime”, having been in Iran to visit her family for Nowruz, the Persian New Year festival, with her young daughter.

Press TV, the state-owned and controlled English and French language Iranian news channel, claimed she was involved in “plans for regime change in Iran”.

She was convicted last year, despite her denials, and has now been detained for more than 1,000 days.

Mr Ratcliffe told Sky News he feared the whole period of his wife’s incarceration was being filmed, and that the Iranian authorities could “drip feed this out whenever they want to, just as a cruel psychological game”.

More from Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

He said he believed the footage had been released as a direct response to the hunger strike, which is set to last for three days but could go on for longer.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe saw the video in prison, he added, bringing the “violation” of her arrest back to her.

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