Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces new charge – and trial on Sunday

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign - Credit: Archant

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is facing a new charge, according to Iran’s state TV network.

Citing an unnamed official. a news report in the country said the West Hampstead woman appeared before Iran’s Revolutionary Court in Tehran on Tuesday morning.

Local MP Tulip Siddiq has been in contact with Nazanin, and said she has been told she faces another trial on Sunday, September 13.

Nazanin has been under effective house arrest since being allowed to leave prison on furlough during the coronavirus pandemic.

She has served more than four years of a five year sentence imposed after she was convicted of spying offences, which she has always denied.

She was arrested in April 2016 while on holiday with her daughter Gabriella.

This week the defence minister Ben Bradley acknowledged a debt the British government owe Iran – which has long been understood privately to be a stumbling block in negotiating her release.

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Nazanin’s family have slammed Iran’s “hostage diplomacy”, and also called for the UK government to take a tougher line on Iran.

Tulip Siddiq, the family’s MP, said: “I‘ve been in touch with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and can confirm that she was taken to court this morning and told she will face another trial on Sunday.

“I know many people are concerned about her welfare and I’ll keep everyone updated when we have more information #FreeNazanin.”

It is as yet unclear as to whether this charge is the same as a previous case held over Nazanin’s head back in 2017 and 2018 – that situation was left unresolved, but campaigners including Nazanin’s husband Richard have long held concerns that the second trial could be revived in order to threaten Nazanin or to extend her time in jail.

In recent weeks, Richard told this newspaper he felt the coronavirus outbreak and Nazanin’s release on furlough were missed opportunities.

“It felt like we had an opportunity. Clearly Iran made the political space to release her, then decided not to,” he said. “Then I think we saw some warning shots to the British government.

“We have seen a number of other cases where people are being brought into court.”

He has discussed how a number of other cases involving foreign nationals detained in Iran – including British-Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert being moved to a notorious rural jail – were potentially worrying signs for Nazanin too.

Earlier this week, the Twitter account of Iran’s Press TV network was widely-condemned for referring to Amnesty campaigner Daren Nair – who has fought for Nazanin’s freedom for years now – an “ethnic slave”. Daren had raised Iran’s hostage-taking with the people running the account. After this exchange, the Iranian ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baedinijad, blocked the Free Nazanin campaign’s Twitter account after it involved him in the discussion – suggesting “racism is not robustness” and saying that Press TV’s slur “demeaned Iran”.