Free Nazanin: West Hampstead mum appears in Iranian court for second trial

The Ratclliffe family when Gabriella was one week old

The Ratclliffe family when Gabriella was one week old - Credit: Archant

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will have to wait for a verdict after appearing in court in Iran on Sunday (March 14), facing a second set of charges. 

According to her local MP, Tulip Siddiq, Nazanin and her family expect news "later this week" after a 20 minute hearing in front of Judge Abolqasem Salavati, who has long-overseen her case.

Days after the end of her five-year prison sentence, Nazanin is again accused of spreading anti-regime propaganda in Iran - something she has always denied. 

Nazanin was told she will hear a verdict "within seven working days".

Of the hearing, Richard reported that Nazanin's lawyer had been asked to give her defence, and then Nazanin herself was able to make a statement to Judge Salavati and a deputy prosecutor. 

Judge Salavati was calm and polite, and explained that this was now the time for Nazanin’s defence. Her lawyer presented the defence he had previously prepared, and the Judge asked one point of detail.

Richard said she rejected the allegations and asked Judge Salavati to ensure a fair trial.

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At the conclusion of her sentence on March 7– which she served out under house arrest after being allowed to leave prison during the coronavirus pandemic – Nazanin had her ankle tag removed. But she remains in limbo, unable to return to her West Hampstead home. 

Richard Ratcliffe reported Nazanin had been told she'll receive a verdict within seven working days, and also that this would be her final court hearing. 

He said Nazanin had told him: "I am relieved that the Court process is finished. I hope it is all done. I hope I’m not going to see them all again, and that this is the end.

"I was so stressed this past week. By the end I just couldn’t do anything. I didn’t want to go outside. I am glad that today I could keep calm. I’ve promised my sister we can go out to a bakery for a coffee. All we can do is wait.”

Richard Ratcliffe said he had been disappointed by the UK government's absence from the hearing, adding: "I do think it was a missed opportunity to challenge the seclusion and victim blaming that goes along with Iran’s hostage taking practices, and this all still passes as normalised.

“But I am relieved that the hearing is done, and that the Judge implied that it will not be drawn out again and again.

"Obviously none of this is a real trial or a fair one, but an act of leverage and abuse in judicial clothes. So the sooner this is finished with – almost regardless of the sentence – the better for Nazanin.”

Richard Ratcliffe with his and Nazanin's daughter Gabriella outside the Iranian Embassy

Richard Ratcliffe with his and Nazanin's daughter Gabriella outside the Iranian Embassy - Credit: Polly Hancock

He said the Revolutionary Court, in his family's experience, "doesn't do acquittals", but that a range of sentences were possible. 

Richard continued: "All we can do is wait to see what fate brings. Her future remains uncertain, with all the stress that comes with that. But at least it is not a continually drawn out trial, which was the main thing I feared.”

Tulip Siddiq added: “Nazanin is relieved that the court process is over and she is free of her ankle tag, but the anxiety of waiting for a verdict will just add to her ongoing mental torture.

"Nazanin is once again stuck in limbo and spending yet another Mother’s Day away from her husband and daughter."

The Hampstead and Kilburn MP criticised the British government and the prime minister, who she said were not "even capable of ensuring that British officials attended her court hearing to ensure a fair trial".

She this was the "very least" Nazanin should have received. 

MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq

Tulip Siddiq says the government has let children down during Lockdown - Credit: PA/ Lauren Hurley

Tulip added: “I understand that Nazanin was told that the 20 minute court hearing she faced this morning would be her last, with the verdict expected within seven working days.

"I’m glad that this process isn’t being drawn out, but I’m deeply concerned about the possible outcome and that the Iranian authorities will continue to hold Nazanin hostage as leverage in ongoing disputes.

“Now is the time to bring Nazanin home to the UK, and our government has a responsibility to pull every possible lever to make that happen.”

The Prime Minister and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani spoke on March 10. UK officials reported that Boris Johnson demanded Nazanin's immediate release, while the Iranian authorities are understood to have said that President Rouhani called for "swift payment" of the £400m debt the UK owe Iran, suggesting this would help other issues between the two nations. 

Despite the requests of Nazanin's family, the British Embassy in Iran did not accompany her to the hearing this week. The Foreign Office said it had requested access to the hearing, but that this had been denied.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement: “It is unacceptable and unjustifiable that Iran has chosen to continue with this second, wholly arbitrary, case against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“The Iranian government has deliberately put her through a cruel and inhumane ordeal.

“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.”

Last week human rights charity REDRESS called for the British government to formally recognise Nazanin as a victim of torture - and shared an independent report from doctors who said she was suffering from numerous mental and physical ailments as a result of her treatment by the Iranian regime.

These medical problems include serious PTSD and depression – and the report, authored by Prof Dr Michele Heisler and Dr Lilla Hardi, said Nazanin "urgently" needs substantial medical care, and can only be treated properly if she is able to return to her family in the UK.

Amnesty International UK's director Kate Allen added: "This is exactly the kind of fresh uncertainty that we and the family had feared would arise from today’s hearing.

“More delay equals more stress and more anxiety for Nazanin on top of everything she’s already been through."