RFL/RE – A British parliamentary deputy said on September 13 that the husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran for four years, has told her that his wife’s latest trial has been postponed.
Parliamentarian Tulip Siddiq, who represents Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s London-area home district of Hampstead and Kilburn, did not offer details of any possible reasons for the delay.
“She is relieved, frustrated, stressed and angry. Once again she’s being treated like a bargaining chip,” Siddiq tweeted.
She said more information would be available later in the day.
Iran’s judiciary, which routinely withholds key information on trials, has not issued a public statement on the charges or issued any news on a postponement.
But they are said to be reviving old charges of propaganda against the regime, possibly in connection with a suggestion three years ago by then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “teaching people journalism.”
The 41-year-old Zaghari-Ratcliffe — a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation — was detained at Tehran airport after a family visit in 2016 and subsequently given a five-year sentence for plotting to overthrow Iran’s government.
Amnesty International called the process a “deeply unfair trial.”
She was temporarily released in March, amid measures to halt the spread of COVID-19, but not allowed to leave the country and reportedly remains at her parents’ home under house arrest.
Iran’s state television cited an unnamed official as saying she was summoned to a Revolutionary Court in Tehran on September and informed of a new charge against her.
Britain has demanded Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release and that of other dual nationals imprisoned in Iran. Tehran does not recognize dual citizenship.
Britain’s Foreign Office has called Iran’s action in the case “indefensible and unacceptable.”
Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Antonio Zappulla condemned the new charge, saying it would prolong Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “inhumane and unjust ordeal.”
The new indictment against Zaghari-Ratcliffe comes as London and Tehran negotiate the release of hundreds of millions of dollars frozen by Britain.
The payment was made by Tehran more than 40 years ago for Chieftain tanks.
Officials in London and Tehran have denied that Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case is linked to a repayment deal.
However, the British daily The Guardian reported last week that Defense Minister Ben Wallace had acknowledged he was “actively” seeking to repay a debt to Iran to secure the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other Iranian-British detainees.
Britain is believed to owe as much as $530 million to the Iranian government arising from the Chieftain contract.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said in a statement this week that “It has become increasingly clear the past months that Nazanin is a hostage, held as leverage against a UK debt. It is important that the UK government does everything to protect her and others as Iran’s hostage diplomacy continues to escalate.”