Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at her parents’ home after temporary release from Evin Prison, Tehran, Iran, March 17, 2020


Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been temporarily released from prison in Iran, amid furloughs trying to limit the spread of Coronavirus.

But other foreign nationals, such as Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, remain behind bars.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard said on Tuesday that Nazanin was given leave for two weeks. She is at her parents’ home in Tehran.

A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 at the Imam Khomeini International Airport as she and her infant daughter Gabriella were leaving Iran after visiting relatives. Gabriella is still with her grandparents in the Iranian capital.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison on “espionage”. No substantial evidence was ever publicly presented in the case, but subsequent State TV “documentaries” tied the prosecution to her employment for BBC Media Action in 2009-2010.

Richard Ratcliffe said yesterday, “Unfortunately, Nazanin will be exceptionally required to wear an ankle tag during the furlough, which her parents have now hired from the authorities, Nazanin’s movements will be restricted to 300 meters from her parents’ home.”

He had feared that Nazaninhad contracted coronavirus but the Iranian judiciary said she was in good health.

Iranian authorities released about 70,000 prisoners on furlough last week, but sources inside the country said “only two or three” were political prisoners.

See also Iran Daily, March 10: Coronavirus Prison Furloughs — But Not for Political Detainees

On Tuesday, a judiciary spokesman said another 15,000 detainees have been released. Among them was Mohammad Hossein Karroubi, the son of Green Movement opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi.

Mohammad Taghi Karroubi had been imprisoned since January. His father, a candidate in the 2009 disputed Presidential election “won” by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been under strict house arrest since February 2011.

Warning of Far Greater Casualties

The Health Ministry said that the death toll has risen to 988, among more than 16,000 cases.

See also Iran Daily, March 17: Report — 1,300 Dead from Coronavirus; 32,000 In Hospital

Dr Afruz Eslami issued the stark warning on State TV said that even if people begin to cooperate with measures to limit the spread of the virus, there will be 12,000 deaths and 120,000 cases. Without cooperation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths, she said.

And Eslami warned that if Iran’s overstretched medical system collapses, “there will be four million cases, and 3.5 million people will die”.

The Supreme Leader — who said at the outbreak of the virus that news of it was a “Western plot” — issued a religious order on Tuesday prohibiting “unnecessary” travel. However, the Rouhani Government is still holding out against quarantines in Tehran and other cities.

On Monday, State TV announced the closure of Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine, sparking demonstrations that were dispered by police.

Foreign Nationals Still Held

There was no news about other foreign and dual nationals who have been seized by the Revolutionary Guards and the Intelligence Ministry.

They include Moore-Gilbert, of the University of Melbourne, who was imprisoned in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years for “espionage”. She is reportedly being held in isolation in Ward 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison.

In a series of letters, smuggled out of prison and revealed in January, Moore-Gilbert pleaded for the Australian Government to intervene on her behalf. She wrote to her Iranian “case manager”:

Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Under no circumstances will I be persuaded to change my decision.

I am not a spy. I have never been a spy and I have no interest to work for a spying organisation in any country. When I leave Iran, I want to be a free woman and live a free life, not under the shadow of extortion and threats.

Other dual and foreign nationals in prison include:

*French academics Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal, detained in June 2019

*Iranian-American-British environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, arrested with eight colleagues in January 2018

*American navy veteran Michael White, imprisoned in July 2018

*Austrian-Iranian IT specialist Kamran Ghaderi, serving 10 years

*Austrian-Iranian businessman Massud Mossaheb, the Secretary General of the Iranian-Austrian Friendship Society, held since January

Ahmadreza Jalali, a researcher who is a permanent resident of Sweden, has been sentenced to death.