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Nazanin needs mental health treatment says charity

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (photo) needs urgent treatment for her mental health, according to a medical report sent by a charity to the British government.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation project manager, jailed in Iran for five years, is suffering from major depression and PTSD, it says.


Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, faces a new court hearing on Sunday, a week after her house arrest ankle tag was removed.


Despite her sentence having come to an end last weekend, she is still waiting to return to London to be reunited with her family.


She was sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 for membership of organisations working against the Iranian government, allegations which she has always denied. She has been under house arrest at her parents' home in Tehran since being released from jail last March.


British prime minister Boris Johnson has publicly tied the case to a gaffe he made in 2017 when he suggested she was training journalists in Iran at the time of her arrest. He has called for her permanent release so she can return home to her husband and daughter Gabriella, now aged six.


The report - commissioned by the human rights charity Redress - says she was interrogated for hours, often blindfolded, while in solitary confinement at the beginning of her sentence.


The report was based on a medical evaluation carried out virtually by doctors while Zaghari-Ratcliffe was under house arrest towards the end of last year. It was completed last month and sent to the British government on Thursday.


In the medical evaluation, she also told doctors she suffered hair loss, had to listen to her female guard talking loudly to her child while separated from her own daughter, and developed obsessive compulsive disorder around washing.


According to the report, her post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and OCD are due to "extremely stressful, traumatising experiences in the prisons of Iran" and the uncertainty about her fate - and warns things could worsen without her being treated and reunited with her family.


Whilst in solitary confinement at the beginning of her sentence she was interrogated - often blindfolded - for eight to nine hours a day, she told the doctors who examined her online.


"The interrogations were traumatising," she is quoted as saying in the report. "They were threatening to send my child away, told me my husband was a spy, that he had already left me, that he was lying to me, that he worked for the British intelligence service.


"They said he was unfaithful, they said he was not an accountant and that he had always been lying to me. They told me I had been fired from my job."


She says she was in a tiny cell - a 1.5 to 2-metre square - during solitary confinement. It had no window, made her feel claustrophobic and she could not tell the difference between night and day.


"The light was left on all the time there was only a dirty mat on the floor with a thin blanket to sleep on," she says. "There were times I could not breathe."


Richard Ratcliffe says of his wife's documented experiences: "This is mental torture. It's a really horrific experience. And it's cumulative. And it builds up. And of course, most of it has been hidden away.


"She didn't talk about it a lot when she came out. I don't talk to the media about some of the stuff. But I think it's important to put it on the record. It's important that our government takes responsibility for protecting people."


Although Zaghari-Ratcliffe may have spared her parents the details, she reported to the doctors that she felt constant sadness, had suicidal thoughts, and suffered other manifestations of extreme anxiety - including trembling, tingling, and hot and cold sweats.


Concern that lumps in her breasts could be cancerous have contributed to her anxiety. And she also has continuing neurological and muscular-skeleton problems, as a result of prolonged confinement, according to the report.


Even once she is safely home in the UK with her family, the report makes clear that there will be a long road to recovery.

She will need medication as well as psychotherapy and treatment for her physical symptoms.


"Nazanin's healing can be only provided in the UK in the presence of her family after reunification," it concludes. "In order to recover, she needs to be in a safe and non-threatening environment." ■