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Jailed British-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe hospitalised after panic attacks

Charity worker had returned to Iranian prison late Sunday after seeing her family during a three-day release
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to prison after a three-day release to see her family (AFP)

British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran accused of spying, was taken to hospital in Iran on Wednesday after suffering a series of panic attacks in prison.

Her health has suffered, her husband Richard Ratcliffe told British newspaper The Telegraph, since she returned to prison on Sunday after a rare short-term release to see her family. 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned since 2016 when Iranian authorities arrested her and accused her of spying. 

She fainted when she had to leave her family on Sunday, after an unsuccessful appeal to extend the reunion, Ratcliffe said. 

"Looks like Iranian legal system is impervious to the simple fact at the heart of this: an innocent woman is desperate to be reunited with her family. Spoke to Foreign Minister Zarif on Fri but that clearly wasn’t enough. The fight goes on," tweeted British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Sunday. 

An innocent woman is desperate to be reunited with her family

- Jeremy Hunt, UK Foreign Secretary

His predecessor Boris Johnson came under heavy criticism after appearing to jeopardise Zaghari-Ratcliffe's defence last year by saying she was training journalists during a visit in 2016, something her employer and family strongly deny.

Johnson later clarified his remarks, saying it was clear that she was only on holiday.

Ratcliffe and the family's supporters have held multiple protests and vigils in London to seek her release, attracting celebrity support from the likes of Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson.

Temporary release

The Free Nazanin campaign said she was told last Thursday that she had just 10 minutes to get ready because she was being released on furlough.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was not allowed to call her family and had to borrow a phone from someone outside the prison to call her brother, who lives in Tehran, to pick her up.

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She then called her husband and the British embassy and travelled to join the rest of her Iranian family, including her grandmother and daughter, in Damavand.

"I wasn't expecting it at all when it was mentioned two weeks ago," she was quoted as saying by the campaign.

"I didn't tell Gabriella or for a long time my mum - so if it didn't happen, I would be the only one to suffer."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told she must return to prison on Sunday and the two conditions of her release are that she not give any media interviews or visit the grounds of any foreign embassy.

Bail for her temporary release was set at one billion rials ($23,800), with her family's home in Tehran used as collateral, the campaign said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's lawyers will ask the authorities on Saturday to extend her furlough, it added.

"Nazanin has a number of cellmates who were released initially for three days, but who are still on furlough over a month later," the campaign statement said.