LONDON: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran, has been caused deep distress after a promise of temporary release was broken by authorities, and she has still not been tested for coronavirus, her family have said.
Fears of the virus spreading rapidly in Iranian prisons prompted the government to temporarily release some inmates as a containment measure. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told last week that her release was imminent as part of these precautions, only to later be informed that she would not in fact be released.
She had packed her bags and was ready to leave the prison last Wednesday, before authorities reversed their decision over the weekend, The Guardian reported.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe raised fears of her having coronavirus last week, and has since accused Iranian authorities of playing mind games.
In a statement released by The Free Nazanin Campaign, Ratcliffe said: “(The doctor) confirmed to her that her symptoms were clearly a virus and were consistent with coronavirus, but he also confessed he was unable to test her with a testing kit.”
This kind of treatment, the campaign said, is designed to torment her and her family. “The effect is a kind of gaslighting, raising hopes before promises are not kept, and then a kind of guilt and self-blame, as the regime manages another distraction and avoids accountability for its acts of abuse,” it added.
“Cumulatively the experience is not just cruel and degrading. The cumulative effect — of promising to release and failing to do so, again and again — is a kind of mental torture. That is its design.”
Ratcliffe said: “Dangling publicly the idea of furlough without yet carrying it through has been an act of media management by the Iranian authorities. It has
aimed at distracting media attention from the refusal to test for coronavirus, and the fact thousands of prisoners, including British ones, have just been left in harm’s way.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016 and later sentenced to five years in prison over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.
Iran has struggled to contain the coronavirus outbreak, with the latest figures indicating roughly 200 deaths and up to 6,000 infections.