Authorities have informed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Iranian-British charity worker serving a five-year prison term on undisclosed charges, that the Revolutionary Guards have opened a new case against her.
If found guilty, Zaghari-Ratcliffe could serve a further 16 years in jail.
In a hearing at Evin Prison on October 8, a judicial official informed her that her case was being reopened based on new material supplied by Revolutionary Guards interrogators, which stipulate that three new charges can be raised against her. Similar allegations against her have been raised in previous hearings. A statement released by Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family said Judge Ghanaatkar presided over her hearing, although Iranian media referred to Ghanaatkar as a deputy prosecutor.
The official said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had tried to overthrow the Iranian regime through her media charity work in London, and that she was paid for this work. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is currently employed by Reuters Foundation and has worked for the BBC. The judge also said authorities had accessed a photograph of her attending a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in London.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s legal counsel was not allowed to be present during the proceedings.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has said that the Guards’ treatment of his wife, who was arrested in spring 2106, amounts to torture. The family has paid an undisclosed amount to prevent her from being sent back into solitary confinement. A recent psychological assessment confirmed that she is suffering from severe depression, a condition her family no doubt believes could worsen if she was unable to communicate with fellow inmates.
“Last night when I was told I was going to be taken to court in the morning, I thought it might be to send me on furlough [temporary release]," Nazanin told her family. “So I wrote myself a note to look back at in future – saying I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow night. I don’t even know where I will be sleeping. Now I look again at that note. I was not expecting this.”
Richard Ratcliffe said the Guards were playing “desperate games” and that the latest development made them look “foolish” rather than intimidating.
“It also brings the integrity of the Iranian legal system into question – as the IRGC [Revolutionary Guards] play their games with my family’s lives, look to extract more privileges from the Iranian and UK governments. They are treating their justice system like a bazaar – making up stories to get a higher price. They are bringing their country to shame.”
Richard Ratcliffe has repeatedly appealed to the UK government, and to Foreign Ministry officials in particular, to take action on Nazanin’s case and do everything they can to secure her release. The Free Nazanin campaign has called on UK officials to speak publicly on the case, and the new developments, with immediate effect.
At the same time, the UK has taken steps to build stronger business ties with Tehran. Iran’s Ministry of Energy and UK company Quercus have signed a $600 million contract to develop solar energy in Iran, and Lord Lamont, the Prime Minister’s Trade Representative with Iran, has encouraged the UK business community to work more closely with businesses in the Islamic Republic.
The Free Nazanin campaign has said that promoting business with Tehran is irresponsible, sending the message that it is acceptable for the Iranian regime to use prisoners of conscience like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe as bargaining chips.
The campaign will host a joint event with Amnesty International at Parliament Square, Westminster on the morning of Wednesday, October 11.
A special performance of Looking for Mummy, a play about Nazanin's ordeal, will be performed on October 10 at Reuters, Canary Wharf.