UK condemns 'unacceptable' new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

The UK has condemned Iran’s decision to bring new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as “unacceptable and unjustifiable.”

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the British-Iranian mother-of-one must be allowed to return to the UK without further delay.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe could have to wait a week before hearing a court’s verdict on “wholly arbitrary” new charges of “propaganda against Iran”.

She completed a five-year sentence earlier this month in Tehran on spying charges levied by Iranian authorities, the last year of which was spent under house arrest due to the pandemic.

But she returned to court on Sunday where she was tried on new charges of “propaganda against Iran”, her MP Tulip Siddiq said.

Some observers have linked Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case to a long-standing debt Iran alleges it is owed by the UK.

Mr Raab said: “It is unacceptable and unjustifiable that Iran has chosen to continue with this second, wholly arbitrary, case against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R) with husband Richard and daughter Gabriella
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R) with husband Richard and daughter Gabriella

He added: “The Iranian government has deliberately put her through a cruel and inhumane ordeal.

“Nazanin must be allowed to return to her family in the UK without further delay. We continue to do all we can to support her.”

Ms Siddiq, the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, wrote on Twitter : “I can confirm that Nazanin appeared in court this morning and was tried on new charges of ‘propaganda against Iran’.

“No verdict was given but it should be delivered within a week.”

Sunday’s hearing, which lasted just over 20 minutes, was a continuation of the trial that was adjourned in November, on charges originally brought in 2017.

No new accusations were made and the charity worker’s lawyer was allowed to provide her defence, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe made a personal statement in the court, where she clarified she did not accept the charge and highlighted the accusations and evidence were already part of her trial in 2016.

She was told this was the final hearing and to expect a verdict within seven working days.

After the hearing, Mr Ratcliffe said his wife’s future is still uncertain, facing open-ended detention.

He said on Saturday that there was “jeopardy ahead of us in terms of what’s about to happen, we don’t know if it’s a big bad thing, a little bad thing or an uncertain thing that’s going to be dragged out for quite a while”.

The case was due to be heard in the Revolutionary Court, in front of the same judge who conducted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s earlier hearings.

Mr Ratcliffe told the PA news agency: “The Revolutionary Court is not in the business of acquitting people, it does only do convictions but it can take its time in doing that and the sentence can vary.

“I don’t think at this stage I can read whether what we’re witnessing tomorrow is a warning shot, or is essentially building a whole new justification for holding onto her for years to come.

“We don’t know what we don’t know, I think the uncertainty is part of the abuse.”

Mr Ratcliffe criticised the British Embassy for declining the family’s request to accompany Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe to the court.

He said: “If they’d gone – it’s a bit tricky to be allowed into the courtroom because you do technically need authorisation from the other government – but they could have easily accompanied her to court and that signal that ‘we’re standing alongside her, she’s a British citizen and we’re watching you’, it’s a missed opportunity and it’s not the first time they’ve missed the opportunity to protect her.”

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it had formally requested access to the hearing.

Speaking after the trial, Rupert Skilbeck, director of human rights group Redress said: “We have grave concerns that Nazanin could be returned to Evin prison or house arrest.

“This keeps her in a constant state of fear and uncertainty, and prolongs the severe psychological and physical suffering she has endured as a result of her torture and ill-treatment in Iran.”


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