Imprisoned Iranian-British Citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Threatened With 16 More Years Behind Bars
Revolutionary Guards Bring New Charges Against Young Mother Who Was Eligible for Release in November 2017
October 9, 2017—Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Iran since April 2016 on trumped up and unspecified national security charges, is now facing up to 16 more years in prison based on new charges brought by the arresting authority, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to her family.
“Threatening Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with more years behind bars after she was imprisoned without full due process is unjust and inhumane,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The Iranian and British governments must work for her immediate release from the clutches of the IRGC and the judiciary, whose cooperation in politically motivated cases reveals the deep corruption of the judicial system,” he said.
CHRI calls for the immediate release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently serving a five-year prison sentence, and all dual nationals imprisoned in Iran without due process.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, denied a lawyer during the hearing, faced the judge with no attorney present, and was only allowed to speak to her lawyer by telephone immediately before the court session, according to a press release by the Free Nazanin Campaign issued on October 9, 2017. This is her second lawyer, as the first is currently being prosecuted for defending her. No date has been set for the trial.
Her family in Iran paid 30 million tomans (approximately $9,045 USD) bail to prevent Zaghari-Ratcliffe, recently diagnosed with severe depression, from being placed in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. The first 130 days of her imprisonment were spent in solitary confinement between Kamran Prison and later Evin Prison.
“It is not melodramatic to say what is happening to Nazanin is torture,” said Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, adding that his wife would be eligible for early release as of November 2017.
“The Iranian government needs to stand up for its citizens—it is what President Rouhani was elected for, to stop the abuse of Iranian citizens by the IRGC who are protecting only their own economic privileges,” he added.
“The Iranian government’s hiding behind judicial independence in the continuing unlawful detention of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe is an outrageous evasion of legal and moral responsibility,” Ghaemi said, “especially when the judiciary demonstrates no such independence from the Revolutionary Guards.
After 19 months in prison, Judge Ghanaatkar of the Branch 33 Court inside Evin Prison informed Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she is facing two new charges. Another charge was thrown out.
She is being accused of joining organizations working to overthrow the Iranian government based on her charity work for the BBC and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The judge asked Zaghari-Ratcliffe, “What is it about you that Sepah [IRGC] are so resistant to releasing you?” according to a paraphrasing of the conversation by the Free Nazanin Campaign.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe had to crawl to a table in the court to sign the charge sheet, which she rejected, due to her physical and emotional deterioration after almost two years in prison.
“How is it that two weeks ago Sepah [the IRGC] wanted to give me temporary release, and now they are inventing new charges?” she asked, according to the paraphrased transcript.
You know this is unfair,” she told the judge. “Whatever decision you make today, you personally are responsible for it before God—for the damage you do to my daughter and her rights,” she said.
Tulip Siddiq, a member of Parliament representing Hampstead and Kilburn where Zaghari-Ratcliffe lives in London, has urged the British government to call for his constituent’s release.
“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,” said Siddiq in a statement issued on October 9.
“The foreign secretary must formally and unreservedly call for my constituent’s release, and must express his concerns at these developments with his counterpart in the Iranian government,” he added.
In September 2017, the British and Iranian governments signed the biggest post-Iranian-nuclear-deal contract between Iran and Britain, unveiling a new $720 million contract at a signing ceremony in London between the Iranian Ministry of Energy and the UK company Quercus to develop a new solar farm in Iran.
“The Iranian ambassador and the UK government need to stand up, and say they will protect British-Iranians,” said Ratcliffe. “It is not enough just to focus in public on their business deals, and to keep a silent pretense. It looks like heads in the sands.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s three-year-old daughter has been in the care of her grandparents in Tehran since her mother was arrested in April 2016 at the Imam Khomeini International airport.