British-Iranian woman in Iran prison tested for cancer, husband says

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Husband says he fears Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has lost ability to control her emotions after 20 months in prison

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, right, with husband Richard and daughter Gabriella in 2016 (AFP/file photo)
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Monday 13 November 2017 10:54 UTC
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A British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran involved in a political controversy in Britain has undergone tests for breast cancer as her emotional state worsens, her husband said on Sunday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 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 has 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 on Sunday, 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 case sparked a political firestorm in Britain after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told a parliamentary committee that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran "training journalists".

Her family insist she was in the country on holiday, and the foreign secretary later clarified to lawmakers that Britain believes this too.

A chorus of opposition politicians have called on Johnson to resign for his error. 

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has launched a furious attack on Johnson, calling for the foreign secretary to be sacked for “putting our citizens at risk”.

He told the Observer that Johnson is “undermining our country with his incompetence” by refusing to apologise for comments that could extend the detained Briton’s sentence.

Ratcliffe, who has been campaigning for his wife's release, confirmed he received a "positive" phone call from Johnson on Sunday. 

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

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

The family believe 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.

On Sunday Michael Gove, the environment secretary, told a BBC interviewer he did not know what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran.

But 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.