The husband of a British-Iranian woman being held in Tehran has castigated Boris Johnson for failing to meet the family since taking office, as it emerged that she faces harsh new conditions in prison.
The prime minister has yet to arrange a meeting, despite insisting he felt a “deep sense of anguish” over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case while campaigning for election to No 10.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, criticised Johnson on Monday, after it emerged that harsh new conditions had been imposed on his wife and her fellow inmates in the notorious Evin prison.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is no longer allowed to call her husband in the UK and has been told she can see her young daughter Gabriella only once a month, rather than every few days.
“It is the job of the government to protect people; particularly when the prime minister promised to leave no stone unturned,” Ratcliffe said. “It remains the case that, since he took office, we have not met with him [and have] not been invited to meet with him or the foreign secretary. I thought that if we were an important issue we would have been invited within the first 30 days. It should not take more bad stuff to happen for this to be important enough to resolve.”
Johnson has faced heavy criticism over Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case after erroneously suggesting in November 2017, while he was serving as the foreign secretary, that she had been in Iran teaching journalism. She and her family have always maintained she was on holiday visiting her family. Johnson later corrected his error, but it was cited as evidence against her.
On Monday Ratcliffe said he was particularly worried about the effect on his wife’s mental health of prison officials’ decision to severely limit the frequency of visits to inmates.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has suffered from such issues during her incarceration and her relatives’ initial hopes that she would receive proper medical care when she was allowed a move to a mental health ward last month were dashed when she was handcuffed to a bed and held in solitary confinement.
Ratcliffe also criticised the British Council after it emerged on Monday that an appeal by one of its employees against a 10-year jail sentence imposed by Tehran in May had been rejected. Aras Amiri, an Iranian who has permanent resident status in Britain, was arrested and accused of spying for the UK while she was visiting a sick relative in Iran last year.
She reportedly sent a letter to the head of the Iranian judiciary saying she was imprisoned because of her employment by the British Council, which promotes international cultural relations. “The interrogations were entirely focused on this matter and the case investigators noted that the problem was not me, but BC, which Iran wanted to stop operating in the country,” she wrote, according to the Times.
Ratcliffe called on the organisation to do more to protect its employees.
Sir Ciarán Devane, its chief executive, said: “Further to reports, we would like to express our deep disappointment and dismay that our colleague Aras Amiri has had her appeal against her 10-year sentence rejected by the Iranian authorities. We remain extremely concerned for Aras’s safety and wellbeing and continue to refute the accusation levied against her.”