A British mother jailed in Iran may be eligible for early release after medics found she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe told doctors she is suffering uncontrollable moods of panic and anger, insomnia and severe depression.
The Iranian prosecutor’s office ordered the health authorities to ascertain whether the charity worker is fit to remain behind bars, her family said. Medical staff at Evin Prison in Tehran, where the 38-year-old mother-of-one is being held, confirmed she is suffering from PTSD after she lost feeling in her legs, collapsed, and had to be sedated last week.
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, a judiciary spokesman, said on Tuesday that she may be eligible for early release, the Times reports. The health commissioner is due to present his judgment this week.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe told the health commissioner on Sunday that she suffered from “uncontrollable moods … insomnia and bouts of severe depression” after 19 months behind bars. “She mentioned having periods of feeling suicidal and having panic attacks, and particularly the impact of the way she is being shown on TV, which had induced particular agitation and depression,” her family and supporters said.
She was arrested in Iran’s capital Tehran while visiting her parents with her daughter in April 2016 amid claims she was attempting to overthrow the state. She was handed a five-year jail sentence six months later.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was accused of aggravating her case when he wrongly told a Commons select committee that she had been in the Middle Eastern country to teach journalism on behalf of the her former employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Amid calls for him to resign over his blunder, Johnson rowed back on the claim and apologized for his comments.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is due to stand trial on December 10 on new charges of creating propaganda against the regime, which could see her sentence doubled. It is unclear if the trial could impede her early release.
Her family said she had collapsed and was unable to breathe properly on Thursday after watching a news item on a state-run television channel accusing her of working for MI6. The report cited remarks by Johnson as proof.
Iranian state media says Tehran has compiled evidence that Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who vehemently denies the allegations against her, was training Iranian journalists in 2010. She is alleged to have been involved in BBC projects that entailed the recruitment of reporters for the banned BBC Persian section and “opposition cyber teams.”
The evidence consists of a pay slip confirming that, before working for Reuters, the mother-of-one had been employed by the BBC World Service Trust. An email, apparently taken from her laptop, said the Trust engaged in training “young aspiring journalists from Iran and Afghanistan through a secure online platform.”
As her case unfolds, the UK is considering paying Iran £400 million ($534 million), which Tehran is demanding for what it says was an unfulfilled tank order dating back to the revolution in 1979.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said his wife has “long been an explicit bargaining chip.” He said he believed that the news segment was intended to “put pressure on the UK” to sign an unspecified agreement.