British woman locked up in Iran faces new charges

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A British-Iranian woman jailed for five years in Iran for plotting the ‘soft toppling’ of its government while travelling with her toddler daughter faces new charges that could add 16 years to her sentence.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faced a court hearing at Tehran’s infamous Evin prison yesterday, her husband said.

She was told of the new charges being brought against her by Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, preventing her from seeking early release next month.

Nazanin pleaded innocent to the charges, which involve her previously working for the BBC and being a current employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said.

Iranian news agencies have said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured with her daughter Gabriella) was convicted of plotting the 'soft toppling' of Iran's government while traveling to visit her parents in 2016

Iranian news agencies have said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured with her daughter Gabriella) was convicted of plotting the 'soft toppling' of Iran's government while traveling to visit her parents in 2016

Iranian news agencies have said Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured with her daughter Gabriella) was convicted of plotting the ‘soft toppling’ of Iran’s government while traveling to visit her parents in 2016

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so such detainees cannot receive consular assistance. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings. Pictured: Richard Ratcliffe (centre) with Gabriella and Nazanin

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so such detainees cannot receive consular assistance. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings. Pictured: Richard Ratcliffe (centre) with Gabriella and Nazanin

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so such detainees cannot receive consular assistance. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings. Pictured: Richard Ratcliffe (centre) with Gabriella and Nazanin

‘Thanks to the Revolutionary Guard’s antics, this is a justice system that can no longer look its victims in the eye, can no longer look itself in the mirror,’ Richard Ratcliffe said.

Iranian news agencies have said Nazanin was convicted of plotting the ‘soft toppling’ of Iran’s government while traveling to visit her parents with her young daughter in 2016.

Her family says the Guard tried to get her to confess on camera that she trained and recruited spies, a charge she denied. 

According to the Hampstead and Highgate Express, Richard passed on a message from Nazanin after the hearing. 

She said she ‘nearly passed out’ during the ordeal, explaining: ‘Going there to that court, seeing them, and answering the same old questions made me have a heart attack.’

She added: ‘I haven’t physically recovered yet. My legs are still numb. My heartbeat still high. 

‘I have always been honest with them about what I have done and who I worked for. I was not trying to overthrow the regime. I love my country. It is ridiculous. I have not done anything since I was sentenced. I have just been a prisoner in the corner, enduring quietly. What have they done this for?’ 

Nazanin, from West Hampstead in London, is one of several dual nationals held in Iran by hard-liners in the country’s judiciary and security services on espionage charges, likely to be used as bargaining chips in future negotiations with the West.

'Thanks to the Revolutionary Guard's antics, this is a justice system that can no longer look its victims in the eye, can no longer look itself in the mirror,' Richard Ratcliffe said

'Thanks to the Revolutionary Guard's antics, this is a justice system that can no longer look its victims in the eye, can no longer look itself in the mirror,' Richard Ratcliffe said

‘Thanks to the Revolutionary Guard’s antics, this is a justice system that can no longer look its victims in the eye, can no longer look itself in the mirror,’ Richard Ratcliffe said

A UN panel of experts recently described the practice as part of an ’emerging pattern’ since the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so such detainees cannot receive consular assistance. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings.

Others with ties to the West detained in Iran include Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly ‘infiltrating’ the country while doing doctoral research on Iran’s Qajar dynasty. Iranian-Canadian national Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, who helped his country negotiate the nuclear deal, received a five-year prison sentence on espionage charges.

Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah, are both serving 10-year prison sentences on espionage.

Nazanin is one of several dual nationals held in Iran by hard-liners in the country's judiciary and security services on espionage charges, likely to be used as bargaining chips in future negotiations with the West

Nazanin is one of several dual nationals held in Iran by hard-liners in the country's judiciary and security services on espionage charges, likely to be used as bargaining chips in future negotiations with the West

Nazanin is one of several dual nationals held in Iran by hard-liners in the country’s judiciary and security services on esp
ionage charges, likely to be used as bargaining chips in future negotiations with the West

Iranian-American Robin Shahini was released on bail last year after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for ‘collaboration with a hostile government.’ Shahini is believed to still be in Iran.

Also in an Iranian prison is Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocates for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government. He was sentenced to 10 years last year on espionage-related charges.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. 

The British Foreign Office and Iran’s mission at the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. State media in Iran also did not immediately report on the new charges. 

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said the new charges are an ‘outrage’ and called on the British government to act. 

She added: ‘There is a clear pattern of Iran treating British dual nationals in this way, and the Government’s soft-ball approach to the Iranian authorities seems to be doing little to improve their plight.’