Hardline Judge Orders Zaghari-Ratcliffe to Hire Different Lawyer After Issuing New Charge
Imprisoned Dual National Allowed to Speak to UK Ambassador for First Time
After being told she is facing the charge of “propaganda against the state,” imprisoned Iranian British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran on May 19, 2018, that she must also hire a new lawyer.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, was forced to appear in the court presided over by Judge Salavati without the presence of her current lawyer.
“She was shown a file with 200 pages of documents, which she did not have time to look at and it seemed it contained the same evidence presented in her previous trial,” Richard Ratcliffe told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 21.
“Nazanin called her lawyer and asked him to come to court but when he arrived at the courthouse he was not allowed to be present at the trial and the judge told Nazanin she has 10 days to get a new lawyer,” he added.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is already serving a five-year prison sentence for unspecified espionage charges. A Thomson Reuters Foundation employee, she was sentenced by Judge Salavati—known for issuing harsh sentences in politically sensitive cases especially involving dual nationals.
She was arrested in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Intelligence Organization in April 2016 on her way home to London after visiting family in Iran.
Her 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, who was with her at the time was taken from her and placed in the care of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s parents in Tehran.
Ratcliffe, who works as an accountant, has been separated from his family for more than two years. He told CHRI that he will be submitting a new visa application to travel to Iran to see his family even though his previous requests have been denied.
Telephone Conversation With British Ambassador
Ratcliffe also said that his wife was allowed to speak to the British ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, on the phone, marking her first contact with a British official in more than two years.
“About two weeks ago, Nazanin went to see Judge Abbasi [in charge of Judicial Affairs in Evin Prison] and complained about her case,” he said. “The judge said, ‘listen, I can’t do much because your case is very political, but I suggest you speak to the British ambassador.’
He continued: “Nazanin got permission to call him and found his number. It was very unexpected to us and the embassy that they gave her permission. She called the ambassador and it was good. Now she has asked for a meeting in person. We have to see if they will allow it or not.”
In a statement published on February 22, 2018, the Free Nazanin campaign revealed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been kept in prison because of a governmental dispute over the interest rate of an old debt owed by the UK to Iran.
According to a May 21 report by the Iranian judiciary’s official news agency, Mizan, Judge Salavati has postponed the proceeding on the new charge until Zaghari-Ratcliffe hires a new lawyer.
“Nazanin’s psychiatrist has doubled her prescription pills to help her deal with depression and problems with sleeping but she is only taking the extra pills when she has panic attacks,” Ratcliffe told CHRI.
“She has not complained about her past physical problems but she is very upset because she was expecting to come home.”