Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in Iran court after 5 years in prison


British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was previously held in Iran on spying charges, has appeared at Iran’s Revolutionary court to face a new charge of “propaganda against the system” on Sunday, her lawyer said.

Iran had released Zaghari-Ratcliffe from house arrest last week and removed her ankle tag monitor at the end of a five-year prison sentence.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 and later convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment.

Her family and the foundation, a charity that operates independently of media firm Thomson Reuters and its news subsidiary Reuters, deny the charge.

Meanwhile, British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the second trial was “unacceptable” and called on Iran to let Zaghari-Ratcliffe return to Britain. He said Iran had subjected her to a “cruel and disgraceful ordeal”.

The propaganda charge against Zaghari-Ratcliffe relates to her alleged participation in a rally in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009 and giving interview to the BBC Persian TV channel at the same time, according to her lawyer Hojjat Kermani.

After the trial on Sunday, Kermani said he expected the verdict within the next week.

“Zaghari-Ratcliffe was fine and calm at the court session,” he told Reuters. “I am very hopeful that she will be acquitted.”

The Iranian Judiciary was not immediately available to comment.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who served out most of her five-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison, was released last March during the coronavirus pandemic and kept under house arrest until last Sunday. The authorities removed her ankle tag but immediately summoned her to court again on the other charge.

Her husband Richard, who has set up the “Free Nazanin” campaign group and lobbied the British government to secure his wife’s release, said in a statement that “at present, Nazanin’s future remains uncertain, and her detention effectively open ended”.

Antonio Zappulla, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said in a statement that the second trial was a deliberate move to prolong her ordeal and her suffering.

“It is incomprehensible that she faces further trauma as punishment for crimes that she did not commit,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, said Zaghari-Ratcliffe must be allowed to return home to her family.

Iranian media reported that during the call, Rouhani raised the issue of a historical debt of £400 million (US$557 million) which Tehran says Britain owes the Islamic Republic in capital and interest for a 1970s arms deal with the then-Shah of Iran. (Source: CNA)