UK-Iranian Aid Worker Appears in Iran Court on Propaganda Charge

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeared in an Iranian court on March 14 to face a charge of making “propaganda against the system,” one week after she completed a five-year jail sentence, her lawyer said.

ichard Ratcliffe protests outside Iranian Embassy in London
Gabriella Ratcliffe, daughter of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, protests outside the Iranian Embassy in London on March 8, 2021. (Andrew Boyers/Reuters)

British foreign minister Dominic Raab said the second trial was “unacceptable” and called on Iran to let Zaghari-Ratcliffe return to Britain. He said Iran had subjected her to a “cruel and disgraceful ordeal.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 and later convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. Her family and the foundation, a charity that operates independently of media firm Thomson Reuters and its news subsidiary Reuters, deny the charge.

The propaganda charge relates to her alleged participation in a rally in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009 and giving an interview to the BBC Persian TV channel at the same time, according to her lawyer, Hojjat Kermani.

After the trial at Iran’s Revolutionary Court, Kermani said he expected the verdict within the next week.

“Zaghari-Ratcliffe was fine and calm at the court session,” he said. “I am very hopeful that she will be acquitted.”

The Iranian Judiciary wasn’t immediately available for comment.

‘Open-Ended’ Detention

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who served out most of her five-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison, was released last March during the coronavirus pandemic and kept under house arrest.

Iran released Zaghari-Ratcliffe from house arrest on March 7, removing her ankle tag, but immediately summoned her to court again on the other charge.

Her husband Richard, who has set up the “Free Nazanin” campaign group and lobbied the British government to secure his wife’s release, said in a statement that “at present, Nazanin’s future remains uncertain, and her detention effectively open-ended.”

The foundation wasn’t immediately available for comment on Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s trial.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a call with Iranian Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on March 10, said Zaghari-Ratcliffe must be allowed to return home to her family.

Iranian media reported that during the call, Rouhani raised the issue of a historical debt of 400 million pounds ($557 million) which Tehran says Britain owes the Islamic Republic in capital and interest for a 1970s arms deal with the then-Shah of Iran.

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