A British mother detained in Iran since April has been sentenced in a secret trial to five years in prison on unknown charges, her husband has informed The Foreign Desk.
Nazanin Ratcliffe, 37, confirmed her sentence to her British husband Richard in an emotional jailhouse phone call Friday morning.
“Five years is ridiculous. For what?” Nazanin said in her call. “I can’t bear to be in this place any longer. It has been horrendous. I do not want to wake up each morning and remember where I am. I want to stay in my dreams,” she said.
A guard supervising the phone call clarified her charges as “relating to national security issues,” her husband said.
Nazanin will serve her sentence at the notorious Evin Prison, located in northwestern Tehran.
Former U.S. detainees Jason Rezaian and Pastor Saeed Abedini were incarcerated in Evin, dubbed “hell on earth,” where torture and violent interrogation are routine.
“A sentence with secret charges still seems crazy. Literally it is a punishment without a crime,” her husband said after hearing the news about the sentence.
“It remains extraordinary that Nazanin’s interrogators clarify the sentence but not the crime. Because there is none,” he said. “Nazanin’s case remains shrouded in shadows and internal politics.”
A British-Iranian charity worker, Nazanin had gone to Iran to visit her parents and grandparents, taking her now two-year-old daughter Gabriella with her.
She was arrested while trying to check-in for her flight back to the U.K. and detained at an undisclosed prison in Iran, spending many days in solitary confinement before she was transferred to Evin Prison.
Iranian authorities also confiscated Gabriella’s passport and have refused to allow her to return home to the U.K.
Following a secret trial held at a Revolutionary Court Aug.14, Nazanin’s sentence was handed down Sept. 6, just one day after Iran and the U.K. upgraded ties and appointed ambassadors for the first time in five years.
The judge presiding over her case is Judge Abolghassem Salavati, a hard-handed arbiter who has been accused of violating human rights and has previously closed trials to the media and even families of the accused.
In the months since her detention, Richard Ratcliffe has been an active voice advocating for his wife’s freedom, launching a change.org petition that has garnered over 800,000 signatures. Ratcliffe had also filed a petition with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention but Iran failed to respond by the due date of August 22.
The family has requested an appeal, but no date has been set yet.
A surge in arrests of dual-nationals by Iran has followed last year’s July nuclear accords in what experts suggest is political jostling by hardliners looking for increased leverage with the West.
Last month The Foreign Desk reported on charges brought against Gholamreza ‘Robin’ Shahini, a 46-year-old Iranian American who had gone to Iran to visit family but was arrested and charged with ‘harming the country’s national security interests.’