Jailed British-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Good Health, Tehran Says

Gholamhossein Esmaili. Source: Kayhan London

DUBAI, March 3 (Reuters) – Jailed British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is in good health, Iran‘s judiciary spokesman said on Tuesday, after her husband said on Saturday he believed she had contracted the coronavirus in prison.

Iran has had the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside of China, where the virus originated, and so far there have been 77 deaths and 2,336 people infected, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

Iranian officials have expressed concerns about a possible outbreak in prisons.

FILE PHOTO: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Reuters./

“Mrs. Nazanin Zaghari, we looked into it and she is in good health,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said. “Yesterday, she had contact with her family and told them about her good health.”

On Saturday, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said campaigners believed she had contracted the coronavirus in Tehran’s Evin prison, where she is being held.

“We are concerned by the prison authorities’ refusal to test her, and the wider suppression of coronavirus inside the Iranian prison system,” he said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit.

She was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment. Her family and the foundation, a charity that operates independently of media firm Thomson Reuters and its news subsidiary Reuters, deny the charge.

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FILE PHOTO: Richard Ratcliffe, poses for a photograph after delivering a Mother's Day card and flowers to the Iranian Embassy in London, Britain March 31, 2019.

REUTERS/Simon Dawson

Ratcliffe set up the “Free Nazanin” campaign group and has lobbied the UK government to secure his wife’s release from prison, but those calls have so far been dismissed by Tehran.

British lawmaker Tulip Siddiq said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had told her family she had not been tested for coronavirus. She also said there was a possibility that she may be temporarily let out of Evin prison.

“News from Iranian Ambassador that my constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be released on furlough today or tomorrow from prison in Iran. If this is true, Nazanin would welcome leaving Evin jail, but we’ve been here before,” Siddiq said in a tweet.

She said the British government was obliged to ensure that any temporary release was made permanent “and not let her be used as a bargaining chip in the weeks to come”.


(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh, additional reporting by Alistair Smout in London; editing by Alison Williams and Philippa Fletcher)