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Vigil for mother detained in Iran

24 June 2016

Separated: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter, Gabriella

Separated: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter, Gabriella

CHURCHES are being encouraged to join in a candlelit vigil on Tuesday for a British-Iranian mother, who has been detained in Iran since April.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from West Hampstead, in London, was arrested at Tehran airport on 3 April. She was due to visit family, with her two-year old daughter, Gabriella. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, reports that she has been refused access to a lawyer or British consular assistance, and that she has not been able to telephone out of the country to speak to him.

Held in solitary confinement in Kerman province until 18 May, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has since been transferred to Evin prison in Tehran. On 14 June, the state news agency said that: “Through membership in foreign companies and institutions, she has participated in designing and executing media and cyber plots with the aim of the peaceful overthrow of the Islamic Republic establishment.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which provides journalism training and promotes human rights. It does not work in Iran, and she has had no dealings with the country in a professional capacity.

Among those supporting the campaign for her release is the Revd David McLeod, Vicar of St Mary’s, Greenham, where members are friends of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe. He described the vigil for her, and others held without charge, as “an opportunity to be a light for them and their families, to stand alongside people walking in darkness, and to pray that the mountains of injustice and oppression will be moved.”

Since Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s arrest, her daughter, Gabriella, who has only British citizenship, has been in Iran, being cared for by family. Her passport has been confiscated. Mr Ratcliffe has been advised not to travel to Iran, and does not have a visa that would allow him to go and bring his daughter home. He is planning to hold a vigil opposite Downing Street from 9 to 11p.m. on Tuesday, jointly with the families of otherse detained in Iran, including Kamal Foroughi.

Mr Foroughi, aged 76, has been held in Evin Prison in Tehran for more than five years, the first 18 months of which were spent in solitary confinement. His wife, daughter, son and two granddaughters all live in or near London and have not seen him during this time. Mr Foroughi's family have expressed serious concerns about his health and it took over four years before he received his first medical. In May, Amnesty International delivered a petition signed by 31,000 people to the Iranian Embassy in London, marking the five-year anniversary of his arrest, and more than 185,000 people have signed a Change petition calling for his release.

Mr Ratcliffe has told Mr McLeod that he would be “very happy” for churches to hold their own vigils on Tuesday, and to let him know through the Free Nazanin Facebook page or the Change.org petition, already signed by more than 200,000 people. He is also encouraging people to consider lighting a candle privately, and sharing the photo on social media.



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