A candle-lit vigil was held outside the Iranian embassy on Monday for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian Thompson-Reuters charity worker. Organised by Amnesty International, supporters including Imperial students gathered on Princes’ Gate calling for Nazanin’s release from Evin prison in Iran. The 38-year-old was arrested on the 3rd of April 2016 at the check-in desk of Tehran’s Imam Khomeni airport on her way back to the UK after visiting her parents. Nazanin, a British-Iranian dual national, was with her one-year-old daughter, who has British citizenship only. The child’s passport was also confiscated, preventing her from returning home to her father in Hampstead.
Nazanin was sentenced by a closed court to five years’ imprisonment on secret charges relating to “national security”. Amnesty International has reported she suffered an unfair trial, and was subjected to solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer or her family, and forced to make a confession. Her incarceration was appealed earlier this month, a decision is still to be heard. Accusations were published in Iranian media that she is the ringleader of a spy network for foreign governments attempting the “soft overthrow” of the Iranian republic. Her husband, who refuted these alegations, has been told she is being used as a “political bargaining chip” and will be released if the British government come to an agreement with her jailers. Nazanin’s mental and physical health has deteriorated during her time in prison, with reports that she was unable to walk merely weeks following her sentence and that she was on hunger strike in November, at risk of suicide.
The vigil marked exactly one year since four Iranian-American prisoners of dual citizenship were released from Evin prison. The prisoners of conscience, including a Washington Post journalist, a marine veteran, and a Christian pastor were released in return for clemency of seven Iranian citizens indicted or imprisoned by the US government for sanctions violations.
Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin’s husband, attended the vigil and delivered a letter addressed to President Rouhani requesting a visa so that he might visit his wife and two-year-old daughter Gabriella, whose birthday was spent away from both parents. He asked that his wife be given a fair trial, and for letters of support sent to her to be delivered. The 43-year-old advocated for Iran and the UK to build better relations “grounded in mutual understanding” for his daughter’s future. He wrote: “I ask for your help in bringing Nazanin and Gabriella home because framing the innocent serves no one, not even those perpetrating it – it risks undermining the values Iran and Islam are proudest of.”