Iran: reports of fresh charge against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is 'worst fears come true'

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe pictured with her daughter Gabriella © FreeNazanin campaign

Responding to reports that the British national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is set to face another criminal charge in Iran, Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, 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. 

“As a matter of absolute urgency the UK Government should make fresh representations on Nazanin’s behalf, seeking to have any suggestion of a second trial removed.

“Having failed for the past four-and-a-half years to secure her freedom, ministers now need to step up efforts to ensure Nazanin’s full and unconditional release from her detention in Tehran, and her safe return to her family here in Britain.”

Amnesty’s campaign for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release is here.

Accused of being ‘spy’

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, was arrested at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran in April 2016 as she was about to board a plane back to the UK following a family holiday in Iran. After being detained for more than five months, initially for 45 days in solitary confinement without access to a lawyer, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was subjected to a deeply unfair trial and sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of “membership of an illegal group”. The charges appear to relate to her employment at Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation, as well as her past work as an administrative assistant on a BBC charity project. 

Temporary release amid coronavirus fears 

In March this year, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - like numerous prisoners in Iran - was released on a temporary furlough basis after fears that coronavirus could infect large numbers of detainees in Iran’s overcrowded jails. After being allowed out of Tehran’s Evin Prison, she has been required to wear a security device limiting her to within 300 metres of her parents’ home in the capital. 

For most of her detention, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held in Evin Prison in Tehran, where the quality of food is poor and prisoners are routinely forced to buy extra food from the prison shop to maintain something close to an adequate diet. Evin prisoners, like those in other jails in Iran, are often denied vital medical treatment, apparently as a further layer of punishment. During her incarceration, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has suffered from numerous health problems - including severe arm, neck and back pain - with her husband repeatedly raising concerns over his wife’s mental and physical health. 

Other dual-nationals

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities appears to be part of a wider pattern of bringing spurious national security-related charges against dual-nationals and other individuals with foreign connections. Prominent past cases include the Iranian-American Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, and the Canadian-Iranian academic Dr Homa Hoodfar. 
 
In recent years, the human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated severely. The authorities have suppressed free expression and imprisoned those voicing dissent. Amnesty is gravely concerned that the Iranian authorities are intensifying their crackdown against human rights defenders, who have already been working under suffocating levels of repression. The intensification of the crackdown is illustrated most shockingly by the harsh prison sentences given to human rights defenders in connection with their human rights work. For more on the wider human rights situation in Iran, go here.

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