London, United Kingdom – Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband said he was “skeptical” that she will be able to return to the UK soon, despite her prison term in Iran entering its final days.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British woman, was arrested in March 2016 at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on her way back to the UK, accompanied by her young daughter at the end of a visit to the home of his parents in Iran.
The 43-year-old was later convicted of spying and conspiring to overthrow the Iranian government – charges she has consistently denied – and was jailed in Evin prison in the capital.
Gabriella, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s daughter, now six, returned to London in 2019, after living with her grandparents in Tehran for three years.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s five-year sentence, which she served last year under house arrest over concerns over the spread of the coronavirus in Iranian prisons, is due to end on Sunday, March 7.
But Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, said he feared another “false dawn” in her case; previous hopes of an early exit have been dashed on several occasions.
This time around, there has been no official confirmation from UK or Iranian authorities that she will be returning to the UK soon.
“If she was going to get on a plane [back to the UK], I would have hoped to have an indication that this might be a possibility now, ”he told Al Jazeera.
“So no news is bad news, I think, at this point. The lack of clarity just means I’m getting more and more nervous about whether it comes out on Sunday. “
Ratcliffe said “three things” must happen for his wife to return to their family home in London: remove the ankle tag she wears under house arrest; be given their passport and given permission to leave Iran.
“These could all be shot separately,” Ratcliffe said. “So at the moment, she’s very anxious… We’ve already lost five years of our life because of this argument.
“And I think it would be a miracle if she came out on Sunday.”
High end case
Ratcliffe has been increasingly outspoken as he campaigns for his wife’s release.
This week, he said efforts by UK officials to resolve his case had failed miserably, as he called his imprisonment a “stain on British diplomacy” in an interview with UK news agency Press Association.
He told Al Jazeera that the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) had to “get tougher” on Tehran.
“There has to be a cost to inertia,” Ratcliffe said. “Otherwise, the Iranian government can wait a long time … governments have a lot more patience than ordinary people who go about their lives.”
A spokesperson for FCDO told Al Jazeera he continued to “support” Zaghari-Ratcliffe and his family.
“We do not accept that Iran has double British nationals as a diplomatic lever. The regime must end the arbitrary detention of all double British nationals, ”the spokesperson said.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
At the time of publication, the Iranian Embassy in the UK had not responded to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
In recent weeks, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has had private phone calls with Ratcliffe.
“He’s very optimistic,” Ratcliffe said. “I don’t think he’s hopeful for March 7th, but he’s hopeful soon.
“We had a series of false dawn, March 7 could well be another false dawn… but one day there will be a dawn, it is not the eternal night.
Rights group Amnesty International, which last month launched a “countdown to meeting” campaign for Zaghari-Ratcliffe, called on Iran to confirm that preparations were “indeed underway to facilitate the release. de Nazanin ”and send her back to the United Kingdom.
“We have always said that Nazanin should never have been jailed in the first place, but the important thing now is that she is released very soon and that she can immediately be reunited with her husband and daughter in the UK,” said said Kate Allen of Amnesty. UK Director of International.
“Nazanin has suffered a lot during this long ordeal, but we are a few days from the finish line.”