The trial of Iranian-British prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been adjourned after a short session before the Revolutionary Court. After the hearing on November 2, the dual national, who has been held in Iran since 2016, was returned to her parents’ house in Tehran instead of being taken to prison as Revolutionary Guards had told her she would be.
The Guards appeared to be using the adjournment to harass Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, and as a negotiating tool in its dealings with the government of the United Kingdom. The Free Nazanin campaign has repeatedly said she is being used as a bargaining chip in a long-running dispute between the two countries.
Although Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been told she was facing fresh charges, when she arrived at the court to face Judge Salavati, she was told she was being tried for “propaganda against the regime,” a charge she has previously faced, and the evidence that was presented against her was the same used to convict her in 2016. Trying an individual on the same charges is illegal under Iranian law.
No one from the UK Embassy was present at the trial, despite appeals from Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin’s husband, and the Free Nazanin campaign. It was their understanding that the Embassy was going to request attendance at the hearing but it was not clear what the response had been, or whether the Embassy had approached the appropriate authorities in enough time. Formally, the UK has given her diplomatic protection, meaning her case is officially regarded as a matter between the two countries, and not between officials.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family and supporters did welcome a recent statement from the UK foreign minister Dominic Raab demanding that Iran did not return her to prison and referring to her continued detention and that of other dual nationals as "entirely unwarranted and "entirely unjustifiable."
Raab also spoke to Zaghari-Ratcliffe on the evening of October 29, and told her he was committed to resolving her case.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her lawyer have not been informed what the next stage in the judicial process will be, which activists have condemned as a tactic to intimidate her and use the case as leverage over the UK government. The two countries are currently engaged in a dispute over unpaid debts dating back to the time of the Shah. ”This is a good first step, but it is not enough," the Free Nazanin campaign tweeted. "The use of the court process as a negotiating tactic by the Revolutionary Guard remains deeply traumatic for Nazanin and the rest of us. We await the next escalation. We do not expect it to be kind.”
According to the Free Nazanin campaign, Revolutionary Guards agents picked Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe up at her parents’ house on the morning of November 2. She reported that the Guards’ threatened her and told her she was being sent back to prison. However, the actual court proceedings were civil and the judge was polite.