LONDON: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Iranian-British dual citizen who was held prisoner in Iran for six years, was required by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to sign a false confession before they would release her, according to UK Middle East Minister Amanda Milling.
The confession was not required by the UK officials who were handling the case, Milling said, but Tehran routinely demands all detainees sign one — even if it is false — before they are freed.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said that while negotiating her release, officials from the UK Foreign Office caved in to Iranian demands and encouraged her to confess, despite her consistent claims of innocence throughout six years in jail.
Milling told Parliament that British authorities were present during the signing of the confession in March this year but had only advised Zaghara-Ratcliffe of the demands set by the IRGC.
“Given the situation Iran put Nazanin in at the airport, she took the decision to sign the document,” she said. “No UK official forced her to do so. Iran has a practice of insisting detainees sign documents before they are released.”
Milling refused to answer the question of whether the IRGC might be removed from the US list of foreign terrorist organizations in the event of a renewed nuclear deal being agreed with Tehran.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016 during a holiday to Iran and charged with espionage. During a BBC interview, she said that a mistaken public comment about her case by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2017, while he was foreign minister, led to the IRGC putting further pressure on her over her activities during a holiday in Iran.
She said: “For about a year and a half, I was trying to say: ‘Look I was on holiday … I have come with a baby, with a suitcase full of nappies.
“But then when he made that comment, the Revolutionary Guards every time after that … they said: ‘You have been hiding information from us. We know that you’re a spy. We know what you were up to, even your prime minister mentioned that.’”
She added: “So I lived under the shadow of his comment psychologically and emotionally for the following four-and-a-half years after that day.”
Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP, said during the parliamentary session: “For days in the run-up to her release, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had tried to make Nazanin write out and sign a document listing the crimes she was wrongly accused of, admitting guilt for them, requesting clemency and promising not to sue or criticize the Iranian government.
“At Tehran airport on March 16 — on the day she was eventually allowed to fly back to the UK — she was again asked to do this by Iran but instead tore up the piece of paper.
“It was only when a UK official told her that she had to sign it if she was going to board the plane that was waiting to take her home, that she finally caved and gave Iran what they wanted.
“Nazanin returned home but the toll this took on my constituent after six years of detention is unimaginable and unacceptable. She is traumatized and fears for what the consequences of this could be for her future, her family and other British citizens still held hostage in Iran.”