Iranian officials have told a British-Iranian mother held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison that she should either keep her toddler with her in jail or give up custody.

Intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) arrested Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in April on spurious “national security” charges when the Londoner was leaving Tehran Airport to return home. Her child, who was with her at the time of the arrest, has been with her grandparents in Iran ever since. 

According to the British media, Zaghari-Ratcliffe recently notified her husband that IRGC officials asked her to choose between keeping her three-year-old with her in the prison cell, or officially relinquish the “right to be with her young daughter.” 

Comment: 

The Amnesty International UK says that Iranian authorities are forcing Zaghari-Ratcliffe to spend time with her toddler in jail because their separation has generated negative publicity for the regime. 

But another plausible explanation could be that, by blackmailing and persecuting the UK-based charity worker, the Iranian government is trying to extort money from the British government. Last month, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband said that IRGC officials were using his wife as a “bargaining chip” to obtain a decades-old £500 [$620] million debt for a tank deal from the British government. Recently, Iranian authorities have also arrested several Iranian-Americans to use as a leverage for potential prisoner exchanges with Washington and extract political concessions and monetary ransom.