Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Is Sentenced to Another Year in Custody in Iran
Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual citizen who was released from detention last month, was handed the sentence and a one-year travel ban on new charges of “propaganda activities.”,
LONDON — Last month, it seemed as if Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s five-year ordeal of detention in Iran was drawing to a close when she was released from house arrest.
But on Monday, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual citizen, was handed a one-year sentence and travel ban on new charges of conducting “propaganda activities” against the Iranian government. The latest sentence, on charges that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family have long denied, is a further attempt by Iran to use her as a political pawn, said her husband, Richard Ratcliffe.
Her lawyer was summoned to court on Monday to hear the verdict, and Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe now has 20 days to appeal, he said. It was not immediately clear if Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is still in Iran, was sentenced to prison or a term of house arrest, but her husband said she had not yet been summoned back to jail.
“It’s clearly a game of cat and mouse, and has been for a while,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “We are a bargaining chip, but we don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors.”
Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given the news at her family’s home in Iran, and her husband said that she was calm despite the difficult news. Her lawyer was hopeful the sentence could be successfully appealed.
Mr. Ratcliffe said they were “not entirely surprised” by the news, but that it was another blow to hopes she might soon return to their London home.
“Now, we’ve had another year added on,” Mr. Ratcliffe said. “It’s important not to overreact, but it’s not a good sign.”
Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case has deepened a diplomatic rift between Britain and Iran and has drawn international condemnation since she was first detained at Tehran’s airport in 2016 while attempting to return home to Britain with her young daughter after visiting family.
Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was later charged with plotting to overthrow the Iranian government and sentenced to five years in prison, before being moved to house arrest. That sentence expired earlier this year, but she was ordered to appear in court on the new charges a week after being released from it.
Dominic Raab, Britain’s foreign secretary, called Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentencing by Iranian authorities a “totally inhumane and wholly unjustified decision.”
“We continue to call on Iran to release Nazanin immediately so she can return to her family in the U.K.,” he said in a statement. “We continue to do all we can to support her.”
The British government extended rare diplomatic protection to Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe in 2019, which elevated her case to a formal dispute between Britain and Iran.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a statement on Twitter called the sentence “cruel” and “inhumane,” adding that the government would “continue to do all we can to get her home.”
But Mr. Ratcliffe has been critical of what he sees as inaction by the British government in relation to his wife’s case, and has said that it is often impossible to know what efforts are underway to ensure her return. He said he worried that his wife’s case has become increasingly tangled in political maneuvering.
“Clearly, we’re being used as leverage to pressure the British government, and the British government is not entirely transparent with us,” he said, “whether they are close to solving it all, and whether they are willing to push back.”
The latest verdict against Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe comes as Iran is involved in negotiations intended to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other Western powers, including Britain. Her family also worries that a resolution may be slowed by a delay in a court proceeding on a decades-old debt between the British government and Tehran, which has previously been linked to her case.
According to Mr. Ratcliffe, Iranian officials had previously told Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she would be free to go when Britain settled the debt of 400 million pounds, about $560 million at current rates, related to a failed arms deal with the shah of Iran before his overthrow in 1979.
Tulip Siddiq, a lawmaker who represents Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local area, called the news a “terrible blow for Nazanin and her family, who have been hoping and praying that she would soon be free to come home.”
She added: “It is devastating to see Nazanin once again being abusively used as bargaining chip.” She also called on the British government to issue an explanation about what had gone wrong in diplomatic discussions to secure her release.
The United Nations, rights groups and Western officials have long said that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case is one of several instances in which Iran has arbitrarily detained foreigners, many of them dual citizens, on baseless charges.
Carla Ferstman, an expert in international law at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Center and former director of the anti-torture charity Redress, said in a statement that there were “absolutely no grounds for these latest charges, just as there was no justification for her initial detention, trial and conviction.”