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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who was arrested in Iran in 2016 on spying charges, was asked to return to prison after a three-day temporary release this Sunday. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given a five-year sentence following accusations of spying by Tehran’s Islamist regime during a holiday in Iran that she claims was to allow her daughter to visit family in Iran. She, along with her family, continue to deny the allegations and maintain that it was a trip meant to visit relatives. Her employer, Thomas Reuters Foundation, also rejected the allegations.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyer was attempting to get her three-day release increased to a longer period, but she was not granted the extension and was requested to return to prison by sundown. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said that she went back to prison voluntarily so that her young daughter did not have to see her “dragged out of bed in the middle of the night.” Now four-year-old Gabriella was said to have cried when she realized her mother was leaving again.
The situation has caused tension between Great Britain, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe resides, and Iran, where she was arrested. Many had hoped that she would be released permanently following the temporarily release. There even exists a “Free Nazanin” campaign that her husband started with a Change.org petition. The petition is currently at over 1,800,000 signatures, with a goal of 3,000,000.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband is infuriated that his young child is continuing to be separated from her mother. “This feels a dark world. I used to pray – but these past two years I’ve lost much of my faith. Who would take a child from their mother?” Zaghari-Ratcliffe said, according to her husband. “I was so happy yesterday walking in the street seeing normal life again, but I also envied the people in the street yesterday walking holding their children’s hands. I just want a normal life.”
There is continued concern that Zaghari-Ratcliffe is spending years in prison for a crime she did not commit, while her young daughter is growing up without her. Hadi Ghaemi, a worker at the Centre of Human Rights in Iran, told the Guardian that “…three days of temporary release after almost three years behind bars under bogus charges is far too little and too late.”
Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, was quoted calling Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s return to prison a “crushing disappointment.” “There were real hopes that not only would her three-day furlough be extended, but that her permanent and unconditional release was also just around the corner. We shouldn’t lose sight of what Nazanin has had to endure – nearly two-and-a-half years behind bars, eight gruelling months of solitary confinement without a lawyer, a deeply unfair trial, and also being subjected to a string of unfounded accusations from the Iranian authorities.” Allen said. Allen believes Zaghari-Ratcliffe should never have been jailed in the first place, and that the UK government should do anything it can to speed up the process of permanently freeing her. “The sooner that Nazanin is able to travel back to the UK with her young daughter, Gabriella, the better.”