British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces ‘a new charge’ in Iran where she was freed from prison due to Covid-19
- Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned to court and notified of a ‘new indictment’
- Her MP Tulip Siddiq said the dual national will face another trial on Sunday
- She was jailed in 2016 for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian government
- The 42-year-old denies this and the UK government has lobbied for her release
Jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is facing a new charge, Iranian state media announced today.
The 42-year-old and her lawyer were summoned to an Islamic Revolutionary Court and informed of a ‘new indictment’, the Irib News Agency reported.
Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead where Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe last lived, said she had spoken to the British-Iranian dual national who was ‘taken to court this morning and told she will face another trial on Sunday’.
Jailed in 2016 for allegedly ‘plotting to overthrow the Iranian government’, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe insists she is innocent and UK authorities have repeatedly lobbied for her release.
She is currently on temporary release from prison due to the coronavirus pandemic in Iran after serving most of her five-year sentence, but is banned from leaving the country.
Amnesty International, which says her first trial was ‘deeply unfair’, called today’s news a ‘terrible blow’ and accused Iran of playing ‘cruel political games’.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, (pictured) is facing a new charge in Iran, state media in the Islamic Republic announced today
Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, said: ‘If confirmed, this would be our worst fears come true.
‘This will be a terrible blow for her, her family and for her many supporters and well-wishers.
‘Nazanin has already been convicted once after a deeply unfair trial, and there should be no question of her being put through that ordeal again.
‘There have always been concerns that the Iranian authorities were playing cruel political games with Nazanin, and that looks to be the case here.’
The charity also called for the UK government to press Iran ‘as a matter of absolute urgency’ to scrap the second trial and ensure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport in 2016 and has been kept in solitary confinement for some of her time in prison.
She worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, but her family says she was on holiday with her young daughter Gabriella and denies she was plotting against Iran.
Nonetheless, she was sentenced to five years in jail for allegedly ‘plotting to topple the Iranian government’.
A final appeal was rejected by Iran’s Supreme Court in 2017, with Iranian media claiming she had planned the ‘soft overthrow’ of the clerical establishment.
The following year she was briefly reunited with her daughter during a three-day release but subsequently returned to prison.
In March 2020, she was granted temporary release after Iran became one of the early hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tens of thousands of inmates were released as Iran tried to curb the spread of the virus in its crowded prisons, and Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family said she had a ‘strange cold’ and feelings of nausea.
A group campaigning for her release from custody later said she was recovering but had not been properly tested.
She is currently under effective house arrest at her parents’ home in Tehran due to the pandemic, with a decision on possibly clemency yet to be announced.
She is banned from leaving Iran and is required to wear an ankle tag, allowing authorities to monitor her movements.
Last month her husband Richard Ratcliffe said there was ‘clearly a stand-off’ and voiced fears of a second court case when her sentence ends next spring.
Jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella
The UK government has said that the legal case against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘failed to meet international standards’.
Ministers say she is innocent and have accused Iran of denying her medical care during her term of imprisonment.
The Islamic Republic does not recognise dual nationalities, meaning Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe cannot receive formal consular assistance.
Antonio Zappulla, the CEO of the Thomson Reuters foundation, said today’s news was a ‘very sad development in the ongoing ordeal which sees our colleague Nazanin held hostage in Iran’.
The new charges come after Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family linked her detention to a disputed £400million payment made by the Shah of Iran in the 1970s, for tanks which Britain never delivered when the Shah was toppled in the 1979 revolution.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe says the Iranian authorities have told her that her release hinges on the money being returned.
But publicly the Iranian authorities have denied any link between the debt and Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment.
UK officials also said they do not ‘recognise any linkage’ between the debt and her imprisonment, adding: ‘It is unhelpful to suggest otherwise.’
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe pictured left holding her daughter Gabriella during a brief period of freedom in 2018, and right with her husband Richard Ratcliffe
Last month, a BBC Panorama programme revealed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was on the brink of being freed by Iran in 2017 when a release deal collapsed.
Her husband, Mr Ratcliffe, said a date had been named for her return to the UK that year – December 28.
Although it is unclear why the deal fell through, then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson had made a widely criticised intervention in her case a short time earlier.
She claimed she was visiting the country so her parents could meet her young daughter, but Mr Johnson said ‘she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it’.
Four days later she was summoned to an unscheduled court hearing during which Mr Johnson’s comments were cited as proof she was engaged in ‘propaganda against the regime’.
Her husband told ITV’s Good Morning Britain in August that it is ‘completely outrageous’ for Iran to be holding people and ‘using them as collateral’.
Mr Ratcliffe added he fears his wife could face a second court case once her current sentence comes to an end next spring.
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