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Timeline of turmoil – a history of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s Iranian hell

The 40-year-old British-Iranian has been incarcerated since she was arrested in April 2016.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Family handout/PA)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Family handout/PA)

By PA Reporters

Here is a timeline of the key events since Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of spying.

– April 3 2016 – The mother-of-one is detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday visit to Iran where she showed her daughter Gabriella to her parents.

– July 12 2016 – Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, delivers letters to Downing Street for outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron and his replacement Theresa May on his wife’s 100th day in custody. He says it is “astonishing” no British minister has publicly criticised Tehran for arresting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

– August 9 2016 – New Prime Minister Mrs May “raised concerns” about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a phone call with president of Iran Hassan Rouhani.

– September 9 2016 – Mr Ratcliffe says his wife has been jailed for five years following a conviction on unspecified “national security-related” offences- a sentence he describes as “a punishment without a crime”.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella in happier times (Family handout/PA)

– November 13 2016 – Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe begins a hunger strike which she ends after five days amid her family’s fears for her health.

– January 2 2017 – Mr Ratcliffe says Mrs May and her ministers could have “publicly stood up for Nazanin more” and should have called for her release. Mr Ratcliffe said: “She raised those concerns in September. What happened after September? Nothing much, really.”

– April 24 2017 – The family of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe say she has lost the final stage of her appeal against the sentence.

– November 6 2017 – It is feared Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe may face a further period of imprisonment because of remarks made by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson told a parliamentary committee the previous week that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was working in Tehran training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016. Four days later, she was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing, where the Foreign Secretary’s comments were cited as proof that she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

Then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made much-criticised comments about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case (Victoria Jones/PA)

– November 7 2017 – It is announced that Mr Johnson told his Iranian counterpart in a phone call that his comments to a Commons committee provide “no justifiable basis” for further legal action against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. A Foreign Office spokesman says Mr Johnson now accepts that he “could have been clearer” when he told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the British woman had been training journalists in Iran at the time of her arrest.

– November 12 2017 – Mr Ratcliffe says his wife has seen a medical specialist after finding lumps on her breasts and is “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”.

– November 15 2017 – Mr Ratcliffe describes an hour-long meeting with Mr Johnson as “positive and constructive”.

Richard Ratcliffe holds his phone with a drawing by their daughter Gabriella, at their home in north London (John Stillwell/PA)

– December 12 2017 – Mr Johnson said he and his Iranian counterpart spoke “frankly” regarding the case of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, during talks in Tehran.

– Later in December 2017 – Mr Ratcliffe said he believes there is “still a chance” his wife may be released in time for a dream Christmas together.

– December 28 2017 – Mr Ratcliffe says he is in limbo waiting for news of his wife’s release but has not given up hope, and describes the situation as “a lot more positive” than last year.

– April 14 2018 – Iranian ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, says the Iranian government is doing its best to secure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, saying the judicial process was “complicated” but insisted “we are trying our best”.

– May 21 2018 – Mr Ratcliffe says his wife has been told to expect another conviction after appearing in court over a new “invented” charge.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meeting Richard Ratcliffe in August (Twitter/PA)

– August 3 2018 – New Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt pledges to do everything possible to secure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, after talks with Mr Ratcliffe.

– August 21 2018 – Mr Hunt says he is considering a request by Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband to grant her diplomatic protection.

– August 23 2018 – Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is given temporary release from prison for three days and her husband says it feels like “home is one step closer”. She returns to prison three days later.

– September 26 2018 – Mrs May and Mr Hunt ramp up pressure on Iran to release the charity worker  during talks in New York. The PM tells Iranian president Hassan Rouhani she has “serious concerns” about the jailing of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured with her daughter, turned 40 on Boxing Day 2018 (Handout/PA)

– December 26, 2018 – Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe turns 40 in jail. Three days later marks her 1,000th day of incarceration.

– January 14 2019 – She begins a hunger strike in protest of her treatment in jail. The action ends after three days.

– January 24 2019 – Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif raises hope of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s return to the UK by suggesting she could be freed in exchange for an Iranian woman held in Australia on a US extradition request. The minister subsequently backs away from his comments.

Richard Ratcliffe on hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

– June 15 2019 – Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe begins another hunger strike, this time lasting 15 days. She is joined, in a show of solidarity, but her husband, who strikes outside the Iranian Embassy in London.

– June 24 2019 – Mr Johnson, who came under fire as Foreign Secretary for his comments about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case in 2017, becomes Prime Minister. Dominic Raab replaces Mr Hunt as Foreign Secretary.

– September 23 2019 – Mr Ratcliffe says Mr Johnson can make amends for his failings in his incarcerated wife’s case by telling Iran’s president “enough is enough” and securing her release.

Richard Ratcliffe with his five-year-old daughter Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe as the pair are reunited (Handout/PA)

– October 10 2019 – The couple’s daughter, Gabriella, returns to the UK after more than three years living in the Middle East. The child, who is now five years old, had been living with her grandparents in Tehran since her mother was arrested. Her father says: “It has been a long journey to have her home, with bumps right until the end.”



From Belfast Telegraph