Lothians man campaigns for woman's release from Iranian jail

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella. Picture: contributedNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella. Picture: contributed
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella. Picture: contributed
A LOTHIANS man is playing a pivotal role in a campaign to release a woman locked up in solitary confinement in Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 37-year-old charity worker, has now been imprisoned for more than a month.

The British-Iranian was arrested on April 3 at an airport after visiting her family on holiday and is being held over an issue of “national security”, according to husband Richard.

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But Stephen Pathirana, a friend of the couple, has been offering support and campaigning for her release. The 42-year-old civil servant, who lives in Haddington with his wife and daughters, has also been in regular contact with Mr Ratcliffe to discuss how best to secure her freedom.

He said: “Richard and Nazanin are very good friends and I want to make sure I can do everything I possibly can to support them.

“I don’t think any of us can truly comprehend what Richard will be going through, let alone Nazanin.

“I want to be there to provide that support network and we hope to bring this to a successful conclusion.”

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Mr Pathirana met the couple in the early 1990s when they attended Edinburgh University together.

Mr Ratcliffe, who lives in London, said his wife had been about to return to the UK when she was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and taken to an unknown location in Kerman Province, 621 miles south of Tehran.

She had her 22-month-old daughter Gabriella with her, but she was taken to her grandparents in Iran.

Mr Ratcliffe says his wife, a project co-ordinator for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has not been granted access to a lawyer or allowed to see her daughter and has not been allowed to call out of the country.

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He has also claimed she has not been charged but has been forced to sign a confession “under duress”, despite not knowing what she was confessing to.

He said: “The cruelty seems both outrageous and arbitrary – that a young mum and baby can be treated as some national security threat is absurd, far outside any reality our family was familiar with.

“It will be torturing her to be stuck in solitary confinement, away from her baby and all her family, thinking about all the worry that they are going through and whether she will be able to see them again.

“It is now nearly two months since I saw or held my little girl, I am watching her grow up online, away from her mother and father. And I cannot get her back – her passport is confiscated. I have no visa and I have been advised not to try and go to Iran.”

A petition on change.org to encourage the UK government to do what it can to free Nazanin has attracted more than 128,000 signatures.