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Society & Culture

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

September 9, 2016
Natasha Schmidt
4 min read
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
Judge Abolghasem Salavati ruled on the case in a Revolutionary Court behind closed doors
Judge Abolghasem Salavati ruled on the case in a Revolutionary Court behind closed doors
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the media charity worker who has been detained since April, has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe confirmed that Judge Abolghasem Salavati handed down the sentence on September 6, but that the official charges against her remain secret.

 “A sentence with secret charges still seems crazy, “ said Richard Ratcliffe. “Literally it is a punishment without a crime,”

On September 9, Nazanin was allowed to call her husband. She confirmed that she had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment and said that a prison guard had said the charges were linked to crimes against national security. This has not been confirmed by the Revolutionary Court.

"We will appeal," she told her husband. "But I don’t know how long it will take, how long it will last. Months? They said that sometimes you can settle cases on appeal through payment – but not often cases like mine. So I don’t know how long it will go on taking.” 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual Iranian-UK national, was due to fly home from visiting family in Iran when Revolutionary Guards arrested her on April 3. Her two-year-old daughter Gabriella, who holds a UK passport, was with her at the time of her arrest, and is now staying with Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family in Tehran. 

The September 6 sentence was read out to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in the presence of her lawyer and followed a trial before a Revolutionary Court on August 14. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family were blocked from attending the hearing. 

The family met with Zaghari-Ratcliffe earlier today, September 9. The family asked for the press not to report on the sentencing until they had met. 

Illegal and Arbitrary 

Speaking to IranWire in August, Geoffrey Robertson QC, legal counsel for Thomson Reuters Foundation, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employer, said the world would be watching as Iran ruled on her case. “Nazanin was held for four months, for some of that time in solitary confinement, before even being brought before a judge. So much for habeus corpus! The judge she was brought before eventually, and who is now in charge of her case – Judge Salavati – has a bad reputation. But the eyes of the world will be upon him.”

The conduct of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s trial and incarceration is illegal under Iranian law. She should have been charged within 48 hours, or released. At 138 days, her charges remain a secret, though a prison guard told her that she was being held in connection with national security offenses. 

She was not given immediate access to a lawyer. It took almost three months after her initial interrogation for her to be granted access to a lawyer. 

According to the Free Nazanin campaign, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was forced to confess while wearing a hood. She was kept in solitary confinement, which is also illegal under Iranian law. Her daughter has also been blindfolded while being brought in to see her mother. 


UK-Iran Relations 

The sentencing comes one day after the UK and Iran agreed to engage more closely on diplomatic matters. But Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe has expressed frustration that steps to improve sensitive relations between the two countries could actually complicate the case. “Nazanin's detention and charges have always felt like she and Gabriella are being held as a political bargaining chip for internal and international politics," he said. 

Richard Ratcliffe has met with the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa Tobias Ellwood, who reassured him that the case was a personal priority for him. On August 4, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also raised the case with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. And UK Prime Minister Theresa May raised the matter with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on 8 August. 

Iran was given until August 22, to respond to the petition filed by Richard Ratcliffe at the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Officials have failed to respond. 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's father-in-law and a lawyer acting on behalf of Zaghari-Ratcliffe's employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, have appealed to the Iranian Embassy in London to assist them on the case.  

In a statement about the sentencing, Monique Villa, head of Thomson Reuters Foundation, said, “I am outraged that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been sentenced to five years' imprisonment. This is a very serious condemnation that comes without any charges orevidence being made public. I have instructed the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s lawyers to find out what these charges are and I know that Nazanin’s family has asked the same of their lawyer in Iran."


Sign the petition for Nazanin's release




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