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'The toll has been very significant': Boris Johnson speaks to husband of woman jailed in Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has undergone tests for breast cancer as her emotional state worsens, her husband has said.

An old photo of the Zaghari-Ratcliffe family
An old photo of the Zaghari-Ratcliffe family
Image: Change.org

A BRITISH-IRANIAN woman jailed in Iran – and at the centre of a political controversy in the UK – has undergone tests for breast cancer as her emotional state worsens, her husband has said.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, was “at the end of her tether” after being taken to Iranmehr hospital in Tehran for specialist examination of new lumps, according to Richard Ratcliffe.

His wife has been complaining for months of sharp pains in her breasts, which finally led to an ultrasound test on Saturday and medication being prescribed ahead of a follow-up consultation next weekend, he said.

After talking to his wife on the phone yesterday, Ratcliffe added he fears she has lost the ability to control her emotions after continued detention. “What’s clear is that the toll of the last 20 months is very significant,” he told AFP. “It will be a long journey back.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) — the media organisation’s philanthropic arm — was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016.

She is now serving a five-year jail sentence for alleged sedition, and has been threatened with further charges and a new trial that could double her sentence.

Her daughter Gabriella, who was born in Britain and is now three-years old, was with her when she was arrested. Gabriella’s British passport was confiscated and she is now living with her grandparents in Iran.

Boris Johnson

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case sparked a political firestorm in Britain after foreign secretary Boris Johnson told a parliamentary committee she was in Iran “training journalists”.

Her family insists she was in the country on holiday, and the foreign secretary later clarified to lawmakers that Britain also believes this. A chorus of opposition politicians have called on Johnson to resign for the error.

After the initial comments, the Iranian judiciary issued an online article saying Johnson’s remarks proved Zaghari-Ratcliffe was not on holiday, and therefore backed up the justification for new charges.

Ratcliffe, who has been campaigning furiously for his wife’s release, confirmed he received a “positive” phone call from Johnson yesterday. Today he told Good Morning Britain that Johnson didn’t apologise for his comments about Zaghari-Ratcliffe training journalists.

Their conversation lasted around 20 minutes, and they agreed to meet in the coming days, according to a statement from the Free Nazanin Campaign.

It added that Johnson agreed “to look seriously” at Ratcliffe accompanying him on an upcoming visit to Iran, and to consider a request for Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be given diplomatic protection.

The family believes the move, based on a legal opinion they submitted to the foreign office two months ago, could aid Britain’s efforts to secure her release under international law.

Yesterday British Environment Secretary Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show he did not know what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran. He went on to reiterate the family’s belief that she was there on holiday, while staunchly defending Johnson and laying the blame on Iran for her continued detention.

Ratcliffe said his wife’s family in Britain watched the interview and were left “pretty indignant.” “It felt unnecessary,” he added of Gove’s initial equivocation.

© AFP 2017, with reporting by Órla Ryan

Read: Johnson wants to clarify remarks he made that ‘jeopardised’ woman jailed in Iran

Read: Over 200 killed in 7.3-magnitude earthquake on Iraq-Iran border

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