Insider news & Analysis in Iran

By INU Staff

INU - Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British woman who is a London resident, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in Iran. She was arrested as she was boarding a plane to return to England, along with her toddler daughter, after attending a family reunion in Iran. She was charged with plotting the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government.

On Sunday, she faced a court hearing at Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, where new charges were brought against her by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, thus preventing her from seeking early release next month.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said on Monday that the new charges involve her previously working for the BBC and being a current employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and could add 16 years to her sentence. Zaghari-Ratcliffe pleaded innocent.

“Thanks to the Revolutionary Guard’s antics, this is a justice system that can no longer look its victims in the eye, can no longer look itself in the mirror,” Ratcliffe said.

In a statement, The British Foreign Office said it was “concerned following reports” about Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s hearing. “We continue to be concerned for the welfare of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and have repeatedly raised this with the Iranian authorities, urging them to provide all necessary medical assistance,” the statement said.

Calling Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment “harrowing” Monique Villa, the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation demanded that “these ludicrous charges must be dropped immediately.” In a statement, Villa said, “This inhumane treatment is breaking up a young family and has already caused irreparable damage to Nazanin’s physical and mental health.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family claim that the Revolutionary Guard tried to get her to confess on camera that she trained and recruited spies. She deniesd this charge.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of several dual nationals held in Iran. A U.N. panel of experts recently described the practice as part of an “emerging pattern” since the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Because Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, detainees cannot receive consular assistance. It is reported that dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings.

Another dual-national with ties to the West who is detained in Iran is Chinese-American graduate student Xiyue Wang, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly “infiltrating” the country while doing doctoral research on Iran’s Qajar dynasty.

As well, Iranian-Canadian national, Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, who helped his country negotiate the nuclear deal, received a five-year prison sentence on espionage charges.

Also serving prison sentences are Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah. They both received 10-year sentences for espionage.

Robin Shahini, an Iranian-American, was released on bail last year after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for “collaboration with a hostile government.” He is believed to still be in Iran.

Nizar Zakka, a U.S. permanent resident from Lebanon who advocates for internet freedom and has done work for the U.S. government is also in an Iranian prison. Last year he was sentenced to 10 years on espionage-related charges.

Former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission. He remains missing.

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