Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe appears before court in Iran charged with propaganda

The British-Iranian aid worker is charged with ‘propaganda against the system’ (Reuters)

By Daisy Lester

British Foreign Secretary accused Tehran of putting her through ‘a cruel and inhumane ordeal’

British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeared on trial on Sunday at Iran’s Revolutionary Court, charged with “propaganda against the system.” Her lawyer Hojjat Kermani hopes she will be acquitted, telling the Iranian Emtedad website: “Her trial was held at branch 15 of the Revolutionary court. Her charge is propaganda against the system.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement that the Iranian government has continued to “deliberately put her through a cruel and inhumane ordeal”, adding that “it is unacceptable and unjustifiable that Iran has chosen to continue with this second, wholly arbitrary, case against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.” 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,” Mr Raab said.

Meanwhile, her MP Tulip Siddiq wrote on Twitter: “No verdict was given but it should be delivered within a week.”

Kermani said: “The trial was held in a calm atmosphere with the presence of my client … The legal defence was made and the final defence was taken … I am very hopeful that she will be acquitted.” According to her lawyer, the charge stems from a 2009 incident in which she appeared at a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in London and spoke to a BBC reporter. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeared in front of the same judge who conducted her earlier hearings.

The Iranian Judiciary was not available to comment. Elsewhere, Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said the uncertainty of her position is “part of the abuse” she is suffering. Mr Ratcliffe said: “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.” Last Sunday, Iran ended Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s five-year prison sentence and released her from house arrest. The British-Iranian aid worker had been summoned to court again on a separate charge.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 – at the time she was working as a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The aid worker was later convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment in widely refuted spying allegations.

Mr Ratcliffe told the PA news agency: “In the grand scheme of things she will be taken to court and a judge will decide what happens, he might not decide tomorrow, we don’t know at this stage whether it’s a short trial or a long trial, and if it’s a hefty set of accusations coming or what happened last time.” He added: “There’s 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 mother-of-one served the majority of her sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison but was released into house arrest last March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last Sunday, Iranian authorities removed her ankle tag but she is still not allowed to leave the country. Mr Ratcliffe said that the British Embassy in Iran had declined to accompany his wife to the trial on Sunday, adding that this was a missed opportunity to protect her and make a “profound difference” to British Iranians held in the country.

“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,” he said. In a call with Iranian Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Iranian authorities to allow Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be allowed to return home to the UK and her family.

According to Iranian media, in the phone call Rouhani make reference to the alleged 400-million-pound historical debt which Tehran says Britain owes the Islamic Republic in capital and interest for a 1970s arms deal with the then-Shah of Iran. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s trial comes after a detailed medical assessment found she had been a victim of torture and is suffering from major depression as well as PTSD.

The report from the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) said Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s condition has been caused by “extremely stressful, traumatising experiences in the prisons of Iran” and the uncertainty surrounding her immediate future.

Source: The Independent