THE shocking plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family was spelled out to councillors as they added their weight to the campaign to free her.

At Thursday night’s meeting, members of Cheshire West and Chester Council unanimously supported a call for Iran to release Nazanin in time to see her daughter Gabriella start primary school in September.

Councillors wore badges supporting Nazanin which were knitted by her mother-in-law Barbara – the cousin of Cllr Jill Houlbrook, Conservative member for Upton.

She told councillors: “How can a healthy mother of a baby visiting her parents three years ago in Iran end up in a mental health unit, shackled and isolated from her young daughter and her parents?

“On Monday, Nazanin was handcuffed – and shackled at her ankles, she was taken from her prison cell to a psychiatric ward in Tehran Hospital.

Northwich Guardian:

Cllr Jill Houlbrook

“She has not been allowed to update her family by phone or by visit, and we have no idea how she is being treated.

“If we ignore the plight of one person illegally detained, we ignore the plight of everyone in similar despair and in a similar position. Nazanin, Richard and Gabriella need every help we can give them.”

Nazanin has been detained by Iran on spying charges for three years after she visited the country to see her family, while five-year-old Gabriella is currently living in Iran with her grandparents.

Her husband Richard has led the campaign to free Nazanin while living in Britain – and last month he joined her on a 15-day hunger strike in solidarity with his wife.

Cllr Houlbrook told the council how Nazanin’s family is missing her.

She said: “Nazanin is proud of her heritage, and the first time I met her at my cousin’s home, Naz had prepared a traditional Persian meal for us all to enjoy.

“Yesterday, Nazanin’s father was denied access to his daughter, and could not deliver the food he had taken for her.

“[Barbara] has a talent for handicraft, and doing something practical makes her cope with the pain of being parted from her granddaughter [Gabriella] – although she longs to be able to pass on her skills to Gabriella and to join Nazanin knitting, which they both enjoy.”

Councillors from across the chamber condemned Iran’s actions, while chairman Cllr Bob Rudd offered to wear the knitted badge for as long as it takes for Nazanin to come home.

Cllr Margaret Parker, leader of CWAC’s Conservative opposition, said: “Nazanin and many others are being held in Iran prisons on what amount to be trumped up charges. This is a disgrace and needs to be stopped.

“Nazanin has missed so many milestones that her daughter has achieved and she will never get those back.

“Her daughter is to start primary school in September – a proud moment for every parent – and Nazanin should be there to support her daughter to give her a hug.

“We need to get her and others home to their families where they belong.”

Labour Cllr Nicole Meardon, cabinet member for children and families, raised concern at the increased tension between Iran, the United States and Britain and gave her support to Nazanin.

“We can’t imagine what it must be like for poor Nazanin and her family,” she said.

“It is absolutely horrendous and it is clear they are all the unwitting pawns in an international situation which seems to be getting worse.

“What we really need to do as a world is focus on human rights, focus on compassion and focus on treating one another with respect.”

Cllr Eveleigh Moore Dutton, independent member for Tarporley, added: “I would implore the Iranian authorities to be merciful from their position of strength and take pity and exercise mercy in favour of this family in their hour of terrible need.”