British woman jailed in Iran faces 16 more years in prison as fresh charges are brought

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 as she made her way through Tehran airport with her infant daughter as she was heading home to the UK

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in November last year
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in November last year

Iranian authorities have opened a new case against a British-Iranian charity worker which mean she could serve another 16 years in jail, her family has said.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested by the elite Revolutionary Guards in April 2016 at a Tehran airport, as she was about to return to Britain with her two-year-old daughter after a family visit.

She was later convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's theocratic government after months of being detained "without charge" in Tehran.

Her two-year-old daughter Gabriella has also been forced to stay in the country with her maternal grandparents as her passport was confiscated and she needed a parent to fly her home. It was deemed too dangerous for her British father, Richard Ratcliffe, to go to Iran to get her.

The child's passport was restored in May 2017 but she is still in the country.

After being forced to sign a confession "under duress" without reportedly knowing the charges against her, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, – who lives in north London but is originally from Tehran – was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016.

But at a hearing at Evin Prison, where she is serving her term, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told on Sunday that a new case had been opened at the insistence of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's most powerful security force, her family said in a statement.

The new charges include joining and receiving money from organisations working to overthrow the Islamic Republic, and attending a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in London, the family said.

"Nazanin and the rest of her family are bewildered at this turn," the family statement said.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said the Revolutionary Guards were "inventing new charges to prevent her early release".

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe used to work in London for the BBC, which Iran says is seeking to topple the Islamic theocracy. During Sunday's hearing she rejected all the new charges, the family said.

Iran refuses to recognise dual nationals and denies them access to consular assistance.

According to a family statement, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe said of the new charges: "I have always been honest with them about what I have done and who I worked for. I was not trying to overthrow the regime.

"I love my country. It is ridiculous. I have not done anything since I was sentenced. I have just been a prisoner in the corner, enduring quietly. What have they done this for?

"I am so tired. Recently I thought it was the beginning of the end. But now I am back to the beginning. My life is slipping away from my hands, and I can't do anything. I just want to come home."

Additional reporting by PA

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