Fears remain for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after Iran files new charges


The release of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iranian prison after finishing her five-year sentence has raised only a flicker of hope that she will go home to be with her family again in Britain, as she needs to appear in court next week to face a new set of charges.

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliff is charged for her alleged involvement in propaganda activity against Iran by participating in the 2009 protests at the Iranian embassy in London, and for speaking to BBC Persian, a network which Tehran accuses of spreading malicious disinformation.

She has always vehemently denied the all allegations.

It remains unclear whether the authorities will pursue a new prosecution in a case which amassed criticism from international community.

Iranian officials will likely use the evidence that was aired publicly in the past and was available at Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s first trial, to form the basis of a new prosecution case.

The authorities had warned about the second set of charges four years ago and on subsequent occasions, including in last September, but had desisted from carrying through with it.

It is believed that there has been differing and conflicting views within the Iranian hierarchy about the legal proceedings against Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

She served the last year of her sentence under house arrest at her family home in Tehran. An ankle bracelet which stopped her from going more than 300 metres from the house has now been removed.

“She was pardoned by Iran’s supreme leader last year, but spent the last year of her term under house arrest with electronic shackles tied to her feet. Now they’re cast off. She has been freed,” her lawyer said.

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is not allowed to leave Iran until the issue of the new charges is resolved. Diplomats from the British Embassy in Tehran are believed to be in regular contact with the Iranian authorities.

Volatile relations between Tehran and the West have played an important part, it has long been held, in the incarceration of Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual nationals in Iranian custody.

Although talks between the new Biden administration in the US and Iran over the country’s nuclear deal with international powers are yet to take place, there have been several recent moves which Iranian diplomats say are positive.

On Saturday it was announced that Washington has announced on Saturday that it is ready to release the US$6 billion Iranian funds that were frozen in Iraq because of imposed sanctions. This follows similar moves last month over US$ 9 billion in Iranian money held in South Korea.

Last week three signatories of the nuclear agreement – Britain, France and Germany – withdrew a motion censuring Iran at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for breaches by Iran.

Tehran maintains it is entitled to change some conditions after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the deal. (Source: The Independent)