UK 'concerned' as woman held by Iran is taken to mental ward

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

LONDON — London demanded the immediate release Wednesday of a jailed British-Iranian woman whose husband said she was transferred to the mental ward of a public hospital in Tehran.

The case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has roiled Britain's relations with the Islamic republic since her 2016 arrest and subsequent conviction on sedition charges she denies.

"We are extremely concerned about Nazanin's welfare and call for her immediate release," a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said.

"We urge Iran to allow family members to visit her and check on her care."

UK Foreign Office minister Andrew Murrison said Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband had told him that she was moved to the ward on Monday.

"It would be indeed cruel to deny this lady, in a psychiatric ward of a public hospital, access to her family. That must happen immediately," Murrison told parliament.Iran

The detention conditions Zaghari-Ratcliffe has described to her family over the phone "are completely contrary to international norms," he added.

A statement from the Free Nazanin campaign said her father has confirmed she was being held by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — a vast and powerful branch of the Iranian military — at Imam Khomeini hospital.

A psychiatrist recently recommended she be "instantly hospitalized due to her sharp deterioration since her previous meeting, and the risk of her taking matters into her own hands", the campaign group said.

The 40-year-old recently ended a 15-day hunger strike.

She was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking her then 22-month-old daughter Gabriella to visit her family.

"I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents," Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been quoted as saying by her family.

"Three-and-a-bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic. Look at me now — I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the global media group's philanthropic arm — but was in Tehran on a private visit to her family.

She was sentenced to five years in jail for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.

The case has added to long-standing tensions between Tehran and London — a traditional ally and big arms supplier to Iran's arch-enemy Saudi Arabia.

Tehran's international isolation has been compounded by its decision to ramp up uranium enrichment in reprisal of Washington's decision last year to pull out of a landmark Iranian nuclear pact.

The oil-rich Gulf nation confirmed on Tuesday it had arrested French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, 60.

France and Britain are both signatories of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Other Iranian dual nationals jailed in Iran include Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer. Both are serving 10-year sentences for espionage in a case that has outraged Washington.

Princeton University researcher Chinese-American Xiyue Wang is serving a 10-year sentence for espionage. US national Michael White was also sentenced to 10 years this year. — AFP


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