A British mum jailed in Iran could “take action into her own hands” if she isn’t freed soon, her husband has warned after Tehran suggested a prisoner swap.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has previously staged a hunger strike in a desperate protest after being denied medical care for a number of health problems she has developed behind bars.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said she has sounded “very low” on the phone and she could soon decide to “do something again” to push for her release.
The British-Iranian charity worker was sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying by Tehran’s Islamist regime, a charge she denies.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif suggested on Wednesday that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released as part of a prisoner swap.
He said he has the authority to make an “exchange” happen, adding that the US government knew Iran was prepared to do a swap six months ago.
Mr Ratcliffe said he was “surprised” by Mr Zarif’s comments but wasn’t sure if it was a serious proposal and that he would have to speak to the Foreign Office and State Department.
In an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he cautioned that he doesn’t want to get his hopes up, but added: “There’s obviously a potential for real hope and potential that she could be home very soon.”
He said on Thursday: “We never had any inclination that there was going to be anything like a prisoner swap.
“What we’ve been hoping for behind closed doors is a medical release.”
Mr Ratcliffe said his wife has sounded “very low” on the phone recently, and he does not yet know how she reacted to the Iranian foreign minister’s comments.
She went on a hunger strike in January to demand access to medical care.
Mr Ratcliffe told BBC Radio 4: “She won’t go on for much longer without her again taking action into her own hands.”
He said his wife has been seeing a health commission which examined prisoners and decides whether they should be released due to poor health.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for Thomson Reuters Foundation, has seen a doctor for lumps in her breast, and suffers from issues such as neck pains, numbness and anxiety.
The mum was arrested with her infant daughter Gabriella on April 3, 2016, at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport as she prepared to board a plane back to the UK after visiting relatives.
The 40-year-old is serving a five-year sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.
Now aged four, Gabriella is with her grandparents in Iran.
Speaking at the Asia Society in New York on Wednesday, Mr Zarif mentioned Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another prisoner, and said: “What can I do as a foreign minister? And I put this offer on the table publicly now. Exchange them.
“All these people that are in prison, inside the United States, on extradition request from the United States – we believe their charges are phoney.
“The United States believes the charges against these people in Iran are phoney. Fine. Let’s not discuss that. Let’s have an exchange.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection last month.
Prime Minister Theresa May has also told Iranian President Hassan Rouhani she had “serious concerns” about the jailing of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The treatment of all British-Iranians detained in Iran, including Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is a priority for the Government.
“We remain concerned about all of our consular cases and raise them at every level and every opportunity.”