Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's Husband: Brexit Is Important, but so Is My Wife in Iranian Prison

The husband of a British-Iranian mother held in Iran over an alleged conspiracy to carry out a coup has called on the U.K. government to not forget her case.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRT), was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she was heading back to Britain with her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, after a family visit.

She is serving a five-year prison term after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment, a charge she, her family and the Foundation deny.

"I understand Brexit is important—and lots of speeches need to be made—[but] just don't forget us," Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, told Newsweek. The message was directed at Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

"The Foreign Secretary promised to leave no stone unturned. There remain a few stones in the way," he continued.

During a trip to Iran last year, Johnson called on the authorities to release all dual citizens in detention. It was hoped that his visit could speed up Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release for Christmas. However, Iran soon said that a new case had been opened against her.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Supporters hold a photo of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a vigil for British-Iranian mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Tehran outside the Iranian Embassy on January 16, 2017 in London, England. Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in September 2016 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the Iranian government. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Little progress has been made since Johnson's December visit.

Iran tried to apply fresh charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe, after Johnson incorrectly stated at the beginning of November that she was in Iran in a working capacity, training journalists. Both TRF and Richard have always maintained that she was on holiday at the time of her arrest, a central part of her defense.

Johnson, who faced mounting pressure to step down following his gaffe, has retracted his remarks since, but Iran is still using them against Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The U.K. and Iran discussed the possibility of Britain repaying a decades-old debt to Tehran as a diplomatic effort to ensure Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release.

Britain owes more than £400m ($540m) to Iran for a 1970s arms deal with the then-Shah of Iran. The Shah paid the amount for 1,750 Chieftain tanks and other vehicles, almost none of which were ever delivered.

Both Iran and Britain have denied claims that the the issue of the debt is linked to Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Tehran has denied allegations that it is holding the woman as a way to pressurize Britain to extinguish the debt.

Petition for United Nations intervention

Richard Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe holds a '#Free Nazanin' sign and candle during a vigil for British-Iranian mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Tehran outisde the Iranian Embassy on January 16, 2017 in London, England. Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in September 2016 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the Iranian government. The vigil, being held outside the Iranian Embassy in London marks one year since the Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and other US-Iranian dual-nationals were released from prison in Iran. Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Ratcliffe's comments came one day after an organization campaigning for his wife's release called on the U.N. to step in.

Activists from the Free Nazanin Campaign presented a submission to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture citing, among other reasons for her release, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's deteriorating health and prison conditions which, they said, meet the U.N. criteria of torture.

"Her abuse has been coordinated with the use of the court system to arbitrarily invent and close new court cases; the state TV news to spread false and abusive information about her; and even the consular services to assert the authorities' control over her daughter and access to her family," read the submission.

Campaigners said Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention, suggestions of a temporary release, and the opening, closing and re-opening of second case against her aim to exert political pressure on the U.K. government.

The submission further claimed that the detention is worsening Zaghari-Ratcliffe's mental health. She reportedly suffers from frequent mood swings, alternating periods of sadness and anger, which have worsened upon learning that her daughter, who lives with Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family in Tehran, was unwell.

"It was a real worry for Nazanin and me when Gabriella was taken into hospital and we were so far away," Ratcliffe said.

"It happens that small children get the flu. But you feel a lot more powerless when unable to help, stuck in a prison cell or thousands of miles away."

"Her psychiatrist has recommended the gap between her sessions be reduced to 2 weeks, and has increased again the strength of her medication," Ratcliffe said.

Ratcliffe was able to talk to his wife on Tuesday (February 13).

"She was pretty down yesterday, a little better on Sunday as there was to be a family visit. Her mood is very up and down these days. It has just gone on so long, with what seems like endless games."