Rouhani Must Act Against Imprisonment of Dual Nationals
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s Husband Writes Direct Plea to Rouhani
January 25, 2017–The Iranian Judiciary’s recent upholding of the indefensible five-year prison sentence against Iranian-British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, issued at a secret trial by a Revolutionary Court, reaffirms the collusion between the Judiciary and the country’s security and intelligence agencies that is undermining justice in Iran.
The Campaign for Human Rights in Iran calls on President Rouhani to use all the powers of his office to obtain the immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the other unjustly imprisoned dual nationals in the country.
“Iran is holding at least nine dual nationals hostage in prosecutions completely lacking in due process,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Campaign.
“Rouhani hides behind the excuse of an independent Judiciary, but in fact it is not independent—it is doing the bidding of the Revolutionary Guards and Intelligence Ministry officials who wish to intimidate dual nationals from western countries,” Ghaemi said.
“I wrote to President Rouhani and asked him for three things,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, told the Campaign. “One was to intervene to ensure that justice is served in Nazanin’s case. The second thing was to ask him to help me get a visa to go to Iran so I can see her for the first time in 10 months. The third thing was that he would ensure that Nazanin receives all the letters and messages.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, has been detained in Iran since April 3, 2016, when she was arrested at Tehran’s airport on her way home to London with her baby daughter, Gabriella. In September 2016, Judge Abolqasem Salavati sentenced her to five years in prison at a closed-door trial.
Her charges have never been formally specified, but her lawyer, who has been prosecuted for defending her and pressured to keep silent about her case, has told Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family that she was charged with “acting against national security.”
“The case of Nazanin Zaghari-Zatcliffe is particularly disturbing because her 22-month-old baby was snatched from her arms when she was arrested at the airport in Tehran and then held in solitary confinement for 45 days,” added Ghaemi.
The infant’s passport remains confiscated and the toddler has been in her grandparents’ care in Tehran since her mother’s arrest.
“For me, the hardest parts were probably at the beginning when we were waiting quietly and when I realized from other families what Nazanin was going through,” said Ratcliffe. “Also seeing how much bigger Gabriella has got (via Skype calls), and realizing she lost her English (language) was hard.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family only learned of the Appeals Courts’ upholding of her sentence at another secret trial, on January 4, via media reports after Judiciary spokesman Mohsen Ejei, at a weekly press conference on January 22, 2017, publicly confirmed it.
The Kerman branch of the Revolutionary Guards and the Judiciary have since been spinning a demonstrably false story about her case. At Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s secret appeal hearing, the Guards announced two new unsubstantiated accusations.
First, she was falsely accused of heading recruitment for BBC Persian in 2009, when the government violently suppressed peaceful protests against the disputed results of that year’s presidential election. Since BBC Persian’s coverage of those events, the news organization—and all those associated with it—have been effectively outlawed in Iran.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was also accused of being married to a British spy—a charge so ridiculous that even the Judiciary ultimately felt compelled to reject it.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Intelligence Ministry regularly use media reports repeating their claims about political prisoners as “evidence” for their accusations.
“Nazanin has never worked for BBC Farsi,” said Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Monique Villa in a January 22 statement. “She served in a junior capacity as a training assistant for BBC Media Action, the charitable arm of the BBC, from 2009 to 2010.”
“Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, is not a spy but a reputable accountant in the UK,” added Villa.
“At her first trial, the majority of the file against Nazanin (i.e. 150 pages) was the coverage by international media on her case—her family’s protesting her innocence was used as an indication of her importance, and hence guilt,” said a statement issued by the Free Nazanin campaign on January 22. “At the appeal stage this month, this had become a file of 500 pages.”
Tobias Ellwood, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister for the Middle East and Africa, said on Twitter on January 23 that he had expressed “concern” about Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case during a meeting in Tehran on January 18, 2017 with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs, Majid Takht Ravanchi. “More meetings planned—will (continue) to support (the) family,” he added.
“The British government is clearly doing more, so I am glad they are increasingly standing publicly alongside the family,” Ratcliffe told the Campaign.
“I think they could still publicly criticize her treatment and call for her release,” he added. “And they could also look at what strategies there are to protect U.K. dual nationals in Iran if Iran continues both to deny consular access to them because they are Iranian while holding them on invented charges precisely because they are British.”
“If asking for access gets nowhere, then there is a need to look at international legal strategies,” he said.
In addition to the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Campaign calls for the release of Iranian-British dual citizen, Kamal Foroughi, held since May 2011, when he was sentenced to seven years in prison; Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, held since October 15, 2015, and his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi, held since February 2016—both sentenced to ten years; Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini, held since July 2016 and sentenced to 18 years; British-Iranian Roya Saberi Nobakht, held since October 2013 and sentenced to seven years; and Iranian-Austrian dual citizen Kamran Ghaderi, held since January 2016 and sentenced to 10 years.
“Rouhani, as president, has a responsibility to uphold Iran’s Constitution, which guarantees due process and a fair trial,” said Ghaemi. “Rouhani needs to fulfill the responsibilities of his office.”