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Iran: Reports of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release is 'unclear'

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

Responding to reports that the UK will pay Tehran £400m to free British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Lydia Parker, Individuals at Risk campaigner at Amnesty International UK, said:

“It’s extremely unclear what is actually happening.

“We sincerely hope this isn’t just more cruel games from the Iranian authorities.

“If this is indeed a sign that the end is in sight, we once again call on the UK Government to intervene as forcefully as possible to ensure that Nazanin is released at the earliest possible moment.

“This won’t be over until Nazanin has her passport in her hand and is sitting on a flight back to Britain.”

One-year sentence added

On 26 April, Nazanin was given a new jail sentence of one-year and a travel ban to follow the year after for “propaganda against the system” following a hearing before an Iranian Revolutionary Court in Tehran after recently completing five-year sentence.

Five-year sentence recently completed

On 7 March, Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, had her ankle security tag removed at the end of the five-year sentence she served following an unfair trial in 2016. However, on the same day she was also given a summons to appear at a Revolutionary Court on 14 March in relation to a fresh case again her. At this hearing, her lawyer was told there would be a verdict from the court within a week. The day after Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag was removed, Kate Allen accompanied Nazanin’s husband Richard, their daughter Gabriella and Nazanin’s brother Mohamed in a protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Mr Ratcliffe attempted to deliver a 160,000-signature Amnesty petition calling for his wife’s release to the embassy, but officials refused to accept it.

‘Failure of diplomacy’

There are longstanding concerns that the UK government has failed to prioritise Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case or the cases of other UK nationals held in Iran. At the time of her original arrest, UK officials advised Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family they should remain quiet about the detention. Earlier this year, Richard Ratcliffe was similarly told by UK officials he should stop talking publicly about his wife’s anticipated release date. More generally, Mr Ratcliffe has labelled the UK’s inability to secure his wife’s freedom a “failure of diplomacy”.

Amnesty fears that Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment may be part of a wider pattern by the Iranian authorities of using imprisoned UK nationals to exert diplomatic leverage, as previously stated by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, a tactic the UK foreign secretary has recently condemned. The Austrian-Iranian mechanical engineer Massud Mossaheb and the Swedish-Iranian medical academic Ahmadreza Djalali are among those currently imprisoned following grossly unfair trials, while Amnesty has recently highlighted the case of UK-Iranian dual-national Mehran Raoof, a trade union activist also arbitrarily detained in Iran since October.

Grossly unfair trial

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran on 3 April 2016 as she was about to return to the UK after a family holiday. She was then held in solitary confinement for more than eight months, during which time she was subjected to a grossly unfair trial on trumped-up national security-related charges and sentenced to five years in jail. In 2017, a second court case was opened against her and later postponed. In March 2020, she was released on “furlough” from Tehran’s Evin Prison, but made to wear an ankle tag restricting her movements to within 300m of her parents’ home in Tehran.

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