Dual National’s Husband Urges UK to Secure Her Release From Iran
Supreme Court Upholds Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s Five-Year Prison Sentence
The husband of Nazanin-Zaghari Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British citizen imprisoned in Iran since April 2016, is urging the British government to secure her release now that Iran’s Supreme Court has rejected the second appeal of her five-year prison sentence.
“We have asked the [UK] government to do three things now that the process has finished: to speak out and say Nazanin is innocent of the allegations that she is a spy; to publicly call for her release now that their conditions to do so have been reached, and to press again for the British ambassador to be allowed to visit, to check on her health and hear from her directly,” said Richard Ratcliffe, who runs the FreeNazanin campaign, in a statement on April 24, 2017.
“It does no good for UK-Iranian relations, or to those who might be thinking about going to Iran on holiday, or even doing business [with Iran], as the government is keen to promote, to know that this could happen to anyone,” added Ratcliffe, who works as an accountant in London.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is currently in Evin Prison, was informed by her lawyer on April 23, 2017 that the Supreme Court upheld her five-year prison sentence for unspecified “security charges” on April 18.
Her lawyer was given five minutes to argue in her defense during her first trial in September 2016.
After the Supreme Court rejected her second appeal, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyer was told over the phone that the legal review was closed, according to the statement, adding that the appeal was conducted as a desk review of the file by a panel of judges.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, was arrested by the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization on April 3, 2016 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport as she was about to board a flight back home to London following a visit with her parents.
The British passport of her 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, who was with her at the time, was confiscated and the baby was placed in the care of her grandparents by the Iranian authorities.
In September 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison on unspecified national security charges. The Appeals Court upheld the first appeal in January 2017.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has still not been allowed to see a copy of the charges against her, nor have the authorities of Evin Prison.
“Her lawyer has not had any contact with Nazanin since her January 20, 2017 appeal to discuss her options,” said Ratcliffe. “Nazanin was not able to provide any input into her Supreme Court appeal.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe did not have access to a lawyer at any time while she was being interrogated in solitary confinement and the case against her was being built.
A few weeks after her arrest, the IRGC’s Sarallah unit in Kerman Province accused the Iranian-British citizen of engaging in “projects aimed at a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
At her first trial, Judge Abolghassem Salavati told her she was not allowed to speak, arguing that it would be more time-efficient if she wrote down any objections she had to the charges.
Salavati has presided over many cases against dual nationals, including Iranian-Americans Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian, who were released in January 2016 in a prisoner swap deal with the United States.
In all these cases, the victims have been held without due process and under unclear or unannounced charges, and denied full and proper legal representation.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable branch, before being arrested in Iran.
“She is a charity worker who was there on holiday with her daughter. The allegations are ludicrous,” said Ratcliffe, referring to unsubstantiated claims by hardline websites claiming she was engaging in espionage.
“The fact that the Supreme Court has rejected Nazanin’s final appeal to overturn her sentence is a huge blow,” said Monique Villa, the foundation’s CEO, on April 24. “I would like to reiterate that I am entirely convinced of Nazanin’s innocence. She is not a spy but an innocent mother who travelled to Iran only to show her baby to her parents.”
“I stand united with (her husband) Richard in calling for her immediate release,” she added.
Ratcliffe said he has no other option now but to rely on the UK government to bring his wife home.
“Having given the Iranian legal system every chance to reconsider, now it is time for the (UK) government to say Nazanin is innocent,” he said. “She was a mum on holiday, who works for a development charity in London, whose crime seems to be that it gets funding from the UK government.”
“Now that we have a full ambassador, it should not be possible that Iran continues to prevent Nazanin from seeing him,” he added. “Lots of countries, like Italy, have dual nationality rules. They have normal consular relations. They find a way in particular cases. This is why now Nazanin is starting to push from the inside.”
The UK fully restored diplomatic relations with Iran by appointing an ambassador to Tehran for the first time since 2011 on September 5, 2016.
Relations were cut off for several years after a group of Iranian protestors stormed the British embassy in Tehran on November 29, 2011.
The judiciary’s ongoing imprisonment of dual nationals contradicts Rouhani’s repeated calls for expatriates to return to Iran. The growing number of arrests also reflects hardliners’ efforts to prevent the engagement with the West that the Rouhani administration has sought to encourage.
Iranian-British dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016, has been held since April 2016; Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, held since October 2015 and his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi, held since February 2016, have both been sentenced to ten years in prison; British-Iranian Roya Saberi Nobakht, held since October 2013, has been sentenced to seven years; and Iranian-Austrian dual citizen Kamran Ghaderi, held since January 2016, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.