The British woman who has been jailed in Iran has seen a medical specialist after finding lumps on her breasts and is “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”, her husband has said.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in one of Iran’s most brutal prisons on charges of spying and spreading propaganda, despite only being in the country on holiday with her daughter visiting her parents.
Nazanin has been held for around 19 months, but her situation was made worse earlier this month after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that she had been “training journalists” - an erroneous comment that could add five years to her jail term.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, released a statement on Sunday underlining her ill-health, and are calling for her to be released on medical and humanitarian grounds.
The statement read: “Nazanin has been complaining of sharp stabbing pains in her breasts for some months. Her breasts have been painful since month five of her detention.
“She previously had been given an inconclusive mammography by the in-prison gynacologist.”
Nazanin has insisted on seeing an outside specialist for a second opinion, the statement says.
“The specialist consultant on Saturday said he felt them likely to be benign, expect for the fact that she had been complaining of sharp pains for over a year,” her husband said.
The statement suggests “she loses her temper over the smallest things” and “her mood has become uncontrollable”.
The mother-of-one has “expressed anger” at Johnson over the “shambles” her case has become but her family said they do not believe the Foreign Secretary should quit.
Ratcliffe said he spoke to Johnson for about 20 minutes on Sunday morning, during which the Cabinet minister said he was “deeply sorry for Nazanin’s suffering”.
In his statement, Ratcliffe revealed Iranian TV had once more used the Foreign Secretary’s mistake to defend Nazanin’s arrest, and made clear her fury at Johnson’s error. He said:
“The report on Saturday repeated the argument that the Foreign Secretary had revealed Nazanin’s crimes, which he had been reluctant to comment on.
“(Nazanin) expressed anger at (Iran’s Revolutionary Guards) but also at the Foreign Secretary, that it had become such a shambles.
“Anger at the original comments, angry at the footage of avoiding the question.”
However, Ratcliffe insisted his wife’s interests were not best served by the resignation of Johnson, who has a “crucial role in the weeks ahead to stand up for Nazanin”. He added:
“So that this is clear – for the media, Government and particularly for authorities in Iran – as Nazanin’s husband, I do not believe it is in Nazanin’s interests for there to be any resignations.”
Ratcliffe said the Foreign Secretary “undertook to look seriously at the prospect” of allowing him to join his planned visit to Iran in the coming weeks.
His MP, Tulip Siddiq, on Sunday told Sky News that that she had spoken to her husband over Johnson’s remarks and was “sobbing down the phone” and “couldn’t believe [he] could make comments that would endanger her life”.
Ratcliffe has made an emotional appeal for help from ministers in a HuffPost UK vlog. Their daughter, Gabriella, is living with her grandparents in Iran.
Johnson’s comments to a committee of MPs appeared to inflame the situation worse after Iran’s state TV broadcast a report claiming the Foreign Secretary’s comments amounted to an “unintended admission” of her guilt.
The Channel 2 report said Johnson’s suggestion that Nazanin was “training journalists” when arrested in Iran last year had “dealt a blow” to the efforts of campaigners and UK authorities to support her position that she was in fact on holiday.
Johnson has admitted that his comments “could have been clearer”, and told MPs on Tuesday that the UK Government “has no doubt that she was on holiday” in Iran.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employers, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Canadian news agency Thomson Reuters’s charitable arm, issued a statement in response to the Iranian TV reports, reiterating that she had never taken part in the training of journalists.
“Nazanin has never been a journalist, hence could never have trained journalists,” the foundation’s chief executive, Monique Villa, said.
Earlier, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he doesn’t know what Nazanin was doing in Iran before she was arrested and jailed - an intervention branded “shameful” by Labour given the renewed efforts to make clear she was on holiday.