Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe has appeared in court in Iran to face fresh charges – here’s what we know right now

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Lauren Geall
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Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe protestors in 2017

Individuals close to Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe have confirmed she has appeared in court in Iran this morning (14 March) on new charges of “propaganda against Iran”. Her team is now awaiting a verdict.

Updated 14 March: Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe has appeared in court in Tehran, Iran’s capital city, this morning, just one week after her five-year prison sentence came to an end.

In an update posted to Twitter, Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s local MP Tulip Siddiq confirmed that her constituent had been tried on new charges of “propaganda against Iran”.

Siddiq added: “No verdict was given but it should be delivered within a week.” 

Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s court appearance comes one week after her ankle tag, which she had been wearing since she was released from prison in March under Covid-19 safety protocols, was removed. The removal marked the end of the five-year prison sentence she received in 2016 for vague charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, something she has always denied.

Speaking to the BBC before Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s appearance in court this morning, her husband Richard said the family had no idea about what to expect.

“It’s like trying to read tea leaves,” he said. “The charges are irrelevant. This is not a real court process. This is not a fair trial – it’s an act of abuse. Nazanin is now pretty stressed. She is extremely twitchy, restless and agitated.” 

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Although a judgement has not yet been passed on this morning’s hearing, Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s family fear the case could be used to block her return to the UK because the Iranian government wants to keep her for diplomatic leverage.

According to a Downing Street spokesman, in a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani earlier this week, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanded Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s “immediate release,” calling her confinement “completely unacceptable”.

Johnson and foreign secretary Dominic Raab are yet to respond to this morning’s developments.

To find out more about how you can help Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe and the team fighting for her release, you can check out this article.

As reported 7 March: Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian aid worker who was imprisoned in Iran five years ago on charges of plotting “to overthrow the clerical establishment,” has been freed, reports citing her lawyer have confirmed.

The news, which was first reported by the Iranian news site Emtedad following an interview with her lawyer Hojjat Kermani, has since been confirmed by her local MP Tulip Siddiq. In a tweet posted this afternoon (7 March), Siddiq confirmed that Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag had been removed and her first trip out would be to see her grandmother – but warned that her ordeal wasn’t over yet. 

“Less positive – she has been summoned once again to court next Sunday,” Siddiq wrote.  

It is believed that Zhagari-Ratcliffe, who was released from jail last March as a result of Iran’s Covid-19 response and placed under house arrest, may now face a second set of charges. According to The Guardian, these charges include “involvement in propaganda activity against the Islamic Republic by attending a demonstration outside the Iran embassy in 2009 and speaking to BBC Persian”.  

Iran’s judiciary officials are yet to comment on the release or the new court date.

While the removal of Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag means she is free to leave her parent’s house (her ankle tag limited her to travelling 300m from her parent’s home) and visit her elderly grandmother, her court date next week makes it unlikely that she’ll have her passport returned to her, making it impossible for her to fly back to the UK. 

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Responding to the news on Twitter, the UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “We welcome the removal of Nazanin Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag, but Iran’s continued treatment of her is intolerable. She must be allowed to return to the UK as soon as possible to be reunited with her family.”

Jeremy Hunt, who served as foreign secretary during parts of Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment, said it was “beyond cruel to toy with an innocent mother and six-year-old child in this way,” and called on Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif to “let her come home”. 

A project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Zhagari-Ratcliffe, who has dual British-Iranian citizenship, was arrested in the country’s capital Tehran in 2016 during a trip to visit her elderly parents, on vague charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, something she has always denied.

Her young daughter, Gabriella, now 5, was 22-months old at the time, and wouldn’t come face-to-face with her mother again for over two years. She flew back to the UK in October 2019 to start school.

For years Zhagari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard has pushed for her release under the #FreeNazanin campaign. Her family have yet to publicly respond to the news of her release and court summons.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.