September 08, 2020

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces new charge while on temporary release says Iran state media
An Iranian court issued a new unspecified charge against British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on Tuesday, Iranian state media reported. The British-Iranian dual national has been detained in Tehran since 2016 on sedition charges, but was temporarily released from Evin prison prison in March amid the Coronavirus outbreak after serving nearly all of her five-year sentence. She is barred from leaving the country. "The branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary court summoned Nazanin Zaghari and her designated lawyer this morning and informed her of a new indictment," an unnamed official told the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news website. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested during a holiday in April 2016 and accused of plotting the "soft toppling" of Iran's clerical establishment. Her family and employer deny the accusations against her. They say the 41-year-old from Hampstead, north London, was in Iran with her young daughter Gabriella to visit family. "Our colleague is innocent and remains unlawfully held hostage for crimes she has not committed," said Antonio Zappulla, Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO. "We had desperately hoped there might be an end in sight to her trauma," he said in a statement. "Instead, she now faces a new charge – details of which remain hidden – following a secret appearance at the country’s revolutionary court today." Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq tweeted that she had spoken with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and could "confirm that she was taken to court this morning and told she will face another trial on Sunday." Her husband Richard Ratcliffe, who has campaigned relentlessly for her release, believes his wife's release is contingent on the UK paying Iran money owed on a cancelled 1970s weapons deal. “The failure to resolve this issue has resulted in Nazanin being taken hostage, and other people being taken hostage,” Mr Ratcliffe said in a BBC Panorama documentary broadcast last month. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has acknowledged that he is seeking to pay a debt to the Iranian government, in a letter reported in the Guardian on Friday to lawyers acting for families of dual nationals detained in Iran, including Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The debt derives from Chieftain tanks ordered by the shah of Iran. When the Shah was overthrown in 1979, Britain did not deliver the 1,500 tanks to the new Islamic republic nor return the money. International arbitration in 2008 found that the UK owed the debt, thought to be worth about £400m. Neither the UK nor Iran acknowledges a link between the payment of the debt and freeing of British prisoners in Iran. Mr Ratcliffe said last month he feared his wife, who was due for release in March 2021, could face a second trial. "Behind closed doors, they keep saying there's a second court case, they keep talking about running it," he told ITV. Amnesty International condemned the reports of a new charge against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. "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," said Kate Allen, the advocacy group's UK director. "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."
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