Fears Mount Over Fate of 15 Britons and Americans Detained in Iran

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Fears are mounting about the plight of more than a dozen Britons and Americans imprisoned in Iran. The U.S. and British governments accuse Tehran of holding them as “bargaining chips.”

The detainees, their families say, could face longer prison time as a result of the confrontation between Washington and Tehran over the U.S. killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Tehran on what the British government says are trumped up espionage charges, is “in despair, definitely distraught,” according to her husband, Richard Ratcliffe.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in 2016 while on a family trip to introduce her infant daughter, Gabriella, to her Iranian grandparents. At least five U.S. citizens, also mostly dual nationals, are imprisoned in Iran. Some were detained before U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

Detained British-Iranians include Anousheh Ashouri, a businesswoman, Morad Tahbaz, an ecologist, and Kameel Ahmady, a social anthropologist. Also held is Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic. Iran refuses to recognize dual nationality for its citizens.

A former FBI agent Robert Levinson vanished in Iran more than a decade ago. In June, Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese citizen and permanent U.S. resident, was freed after being held in an Iranian prison for nearly four years. His release came after lobbying by Lebanese and U.S. diplomats. There is also Navy veteran Michael White, was imprisoned in Iran in July while visiting a girlfriend.

Last month, the French government reacted angrily to Iran’s detention of two French academics. It called for them to be released “without delay,” and urged Iran to show “total transparency.”

Like their British counterparts, the families of American detainees are also becoming more anxious.

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