Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘paying the price’ with new court summons days after £400m debt hearing delayed
- Credit: Archant
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been summoned to court in Iran –and warned to pack a bag for prison – just days after it was announced that a High Court hearing into the debt the UK owes Iran has been postponed again.
Nazanin – currently out of prison on furlough but under house arrest – has been told to attend a hearing in front of Judge Salavati on Monday November 2.
In response, husband Richard said she had told him: “They’ll definitely take me back in. It’s me paying the price. What am I supposed to do? Just pack a bag and accept I’ll be going back?”
Click here to see the Ham&High’s coverage of Nazanin’s case #FreeNazaninHe explained how she had been visited by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) at her parents’ home and threatened.
This coincides with a further six month delay in the case taking place to resolve whether the UK has to repay £400m to Iran over an arms deal from the 1970s. It was supposed to be heard in March 2020, was initially delayed until November 3, and has now been put back to March 2021.
Richard said there was an obvious “mirror effect”, and said he had urged the foreign secretary Dominic Raab to take a stronger line on Iran and make clear that hostage diplomacy was not acceptable.
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Nazanin, he said, was forced to abandon a much-awaited Zoom painting session with Gabriella – the couple’s daughter – when the IRGC arrived at the door.
He added: “This is a cruel game of cat and mouse waiting. And yesterday it got crueller. Decisions from governments can have heavy consequences, even when they are just postponements.
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“We don’t know what will happen on Monday, we don’t know how far and how soon they will take forward their prison threat. But we do know that the Revolutionary Guard are signalling something to the British government. And we also know they are signalling this could have a long time still to run.”
Richard said that, even though Nazanin’s five year sentence is almost up and she legally should have been granted clemency this year, he worried she could be held in Iran for years.
“We do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years,” he said. “So I really hope there’s something we’re not being told, as on the face of it the government’s response seems disastrous, just extraordinary that they won’t change course.”
Tulip Siddiq, Nazanin’s local MP said: “Nazanin has once again been treated with utter contempt, and I am extremely concerned about her future and wellbeing. The fact that she has been told to pack a bag for prison ahead of her court hearing doesn’t fill me with confidence that this will be anything close to a fair trial.
“The timing of this development alongside the postponement of the court hearing about the UK’s historic debt to Iran raises serious concerns.”
She called on the foreign office to put pressure on Iran and ensure consular access to Nazanin and the court hearing.
Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, said: “All the signs are that this is going to be a judicial charade.
“Nazanin has already been convicted once after a deeply unfair trial before a Revolutionary Court - the chances of the Iranian authorities now giving her a fair trial on a fresh charge are basically zero.”C
Charlie Loudon, international legal advisor at REDRESS – a charity who work to help victims of torture worldwide – said; “To force Nazanin to go back to prison would have a terrible impact on her. Having been separated from her husband and daughter for four and half years, she should be returning to her family, not returning to prison.
“There is absolutely no coincidence that Nazanin has been summoned back to prison on the day that payment of the UK’s debt to Iran was once again delayed. Iran is holding Nazanin hostage and needs to be treated as such.”
Both groups called on the UK government to assert its right to attend the trial and visit Nazanin at her parents’ home.
A foreign office spokesperson said: “This latest recall to court is an unwarranted, unjustified and unacceptable decision, which is causing enormous distress to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family.
“It further tarnishes Iran’s reputation. Iran must end the arbitrary detention of all the dual British nationals in its detention, and allow them to return home.”