'I can’t take it any more', Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells husband after court case postponed

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran in 2016. Credit: PA

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said she “really can’t take it any more” after a second court case against her in Iran was postponed at short notice with no explanation and no future date set.

The 42-year-old mother-of-one has been detained in Iran since 2016 when she was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said his wife was expecting to be tried on Sunday on charges of “spreading propaganda against the regime”.

But Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was not taken to the Revolutionary Court and the case against her was postponed.

She told her husband on Sunday morning: “People should not underestimate the level of stress.

“People tell me to calm down. You don’t understand what it is like. Nothing is calm.”

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of jailed British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

She added: “And this morning I just wanted to scream out loud for 10 minutes or to bang my head against the wall – just to let it out.

“I really can’t take it any more. They have all these games and I have no power in them.

“Sometimes I am just full of anger ready to explode. I find myself hating everything in this life, including myself. There is no escape.

“I would have rather it happened today. I do not sleep at all while the case is hanging over me.

“This morning I wanted to get it over with – to know where I stand now rather than continue with this whole stupid game.”

Having been moved to house arrest in March, when thousands of prisoners were granted clemency and released from Iranian jails amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to court on Tuesday only months from her expected release date and told she would face a second trial.

Mr Ratcliffe said neither his wife nor her lawyer were given any explanation about why or when the trial might be rescheduled.

He said: “It is too early to say what the postponement means, except that this remains a game of cat and mouse between governments, with us living life as a piece of bait.

“For Nazanin, the uncertainty remains deeply traumatic as we await the next move.

“As we do so, the importance of the Government’s diplomatic protection grows.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been separated from her daughter for more than four years. Credit: PA

Amnesty International UK accused Iranian authorities of “playing cruel political games” with Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and called on the UK government to make it an “absolute priority” to get her home for Christmas.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said: “We welcome the deferral of this groundless court hearing and call on Iran to make Nazanin’s release permanent so that she can return to her family in the UK.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week described the decision to bring new charges as “indefensible and unacceptable”, according to Downing Street.

Mr Ratcliffe said the new charges against his wife are further evidence she is being held for “political leverage” amid a multimillion-pound dispute between the UK and Iran.

It has been claimed Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held to force the UK to settle on a debt dating back to the 1970s when the then-shah of Iran paid the UK £400 million for 1,500 Chieftain tanks.

After he was toppled in 1979, the UK refused to deliver the tanks to the new Islamic republic and kept the money, despite British courts accepting it should be repaid.

Leanna Burnard, legal officer at Redress, which has acted as legal representatives for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, said: “The complete absence of the rule of law in this case ensures that Nazanin is held in a constant state of stress, not knowing if she might be returned to prison or when she might see her husband and daughter again.

“This amounts to psychological torture and places Iran in breach of its obligations under international human rights law.

“The Iranian regime has been intermittently threatening Nazanin with a second trial for three years.

“In denying her the most basic due process, Iran continues to flout its fundamental obligations under international law and Iranian law.”

She added: “Today’s events are further confirmation of what we have long known – that Nazanin is being held as a pawn for political leverage.

“The UK government promised to protect Nazanin’s rights when it granted her diplomatic protection last year.

“It is critical that it maintain pressure on Iran and assert its right to attend the trial when it takes place.”