British-Iranian hostage Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been sentenced to another year in prison and a one-year travel ban by an Iranian court.
The charity worker’s initial five-year prison term on trumped-up espionage charges ended in March 2021. But the Iranian regime had also charged her with “propaganda against the regime” in November 2017, for which she has now been found guilty by the Revolutionary Court.
Nazanin’s lawyer Hojjat Kermani told Emtedad news website on Monday that in addition to the one-year jail sentence, the mother-of-one has been issued with a one-year ban on leaving the country. She was accused of taking part in a demonstration in London 12 years ago and giving an interview to the BBC’s Persian service.
Nazanin was first arrested in 2016 after travelling to Iran to visit family together with her daughter, who is now back in the United Kingdom. She was held in Evin Prison for most of her five-year sentence before being released into house arrest last March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The fresh verdict against her came amid international negotiations over the US returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The Iranian authorities have also signalled Nazanin is being held over a historic £400m debt Britain owes to Iran for a business deal struck before the Islamic Revolution. A three-day UK court hearing over the debt was postponed again last week, for the 11th time since 2013 and to the dismay of families of dual nationals being unjustly held prisoner in Iran.
Confirming the sentence, her husband Richard Ratcliffe told the BBC that the court's decision was "clearly a negotiating tactic" by the Iranian authorities. He added that Nazanin has not yet been summoned to prison and her lawyer is planning to appeal the sentence.
The British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, called the sentence "a totally inhumane and wholly unjustified decision". He added: "We continue to call on Iran to release Nazanin immediately so she can return to her family in the UK. We continue to do all we can to support her."
The family's MP in London, Tulip Siddiq, said on Monday that the latest sentence was "absolutely devastating news and shocking that her husband was only just notified... Another abusive use of her as a bargaining chip." She added: "We’ve been told the government has been working behind the scenes to secure Nazanin’s release. These efforts have clearly failed and we deserve an urgent explanation from ministers about what has happened.”
Nazanin's former employer the Thompson Reuters Foundation also reacted with outrage to the news. In a statement issued on Monday afternoon, CEO Antony Zappulla expressed solidarity with Nazanin's family and said the new sentence "defies comprehension, lawful process, justice and basic humanity".
He added: "I have stressed, time and time again, that our colleague is an innocent woman. She has been incarcerated for a crime that she did not commit. Her suffering has been cruel and extreme, resulting in long-lasting physical and psychological consequences for her, and an emotional rollercoaster for her family.
"Nazanin’s ordeal should have ended on March 7, 2021. Instead, she continues to be held as a political hostage in Tehran, a victim of an international dispute. The decision to jail Nazanin for an additional year must be challenged by the UK government. For how much longer must she be denied her liberty, her family and her future?"
The final hearing in the second case against Nazanin took place at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, presided over by Judge Abolghasem Salavati, on Sunday, March 14: Mother's Day in the United Kingdom. According to the Free Nazanin campaign, the British Embassy had declined to accompany Nazanin to the trial, saying it was too short notice. .