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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: British mother jailed in Iran told by judge to expect to be convicted and resentenced on old evidence, supporters claim

Husband calls for Boris Johnson to act and says charity worker is effectively facing trial on the same manufactured ‘evidence’ used to convict her in 2016, for which she is already serving a jail sentence

Adam Lusher
Monday 21 May 2018 11:30 BST
One Night of Freedom: comedy in solidarity with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

A British mother jailed in Iran has been taken back to court and told by a judge to expect to be reconvicted and resentenced on a “resurrected” charge of “spreading propaganda against the regime”, her supporters have revealed.

It was claimed that when shown the “evidence” against her on Saturday, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe realised it was the same material that had been used to convict her in the first place in 2016, for which she has been serving a prison sentence ever since.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe, who has campaigned for his wife’s release since she was arrested while trying to return home from a holiday with her daughter, said: “The judge briefly showed her the file against her.

“While she was not allowed to read it in detail, from that quick view she understood she was being prosecuted again with the same material that had been exaggerated and used to justify her first trial.

“The Judge told Nazanin to expect that likely there will be another conviction and sentence against her.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe does not appear to have been represented by a lawyer during the court appearance.

Calling for action from foreign secretary Boris Johnson, Mr Ratcliffe told The Independent: “Enough is enough.

“We have previously made the point to the British Government that we think it is a profoundly unjust ‘justice system’, and we have previously asked them to criticise that system.

“I think it would be helpful for the Government to say something.

“Nazanin has asked for the British embassy to send a demarche, a letter of protest, which they have never done, throughout all her treatment.

“My call to the foreign secretary would be for him to sort it.

“He gave very sincere promises, but has not yet managed to carry them through. There is a responsibility of the government, there is a responsibility of the foreign secretary, to protect British citizens.”

Mr Ratcliffe, a North London accountant, added: “For Nazanin to face being convicted a second time for something we didn’t think was a crime the first time round is bewildering. It’s quite a muddle, isn’t it?”

Mr Ratcliffe said that during the hearing, Revolutionary Court Judge Salavati had been, “oddly, quite nice”.

But he added that his wife’s lawyer had been turned away when he turned up at court, and that during the hearing the judge had told her: “This morning someone called and said he is your lawyer. But I do not accept him for security cases. He has not been approved.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was allowed to talk after the hearing to Rob Macaire, the newly appointed British ambassador in Iran, and she asked him to issue a diplomatic letter of protest.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case was thrown into the media spotlight six months ago when a gaffe by Boris Johnson appeared to have significantly worsened her plight.

The foreign secretary was widely condemned in November when he told a committee of MPs that the mother-of-one had been teaching journalists in Iran.

In fact, the charity worker has never taught journalists in her life and is not even a trained journalist. She had gone to Tehran on holiday, hoping to visit her parents and other family members with her 21-month-old daughter Gabriella.

But Iranian state media portrayed Mr Johnson’s words as an accidental confession that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was a spy.

The foreign secretary eventually apologised and promised to “leave absolutely no stone unturned” in his efforts to secure her release.

Mr Ratcliffe said at the time that his wife was “on the verge of a nervous breakdown” and had expressed anger at Mr Johnson over the “shambles” her case had become.

Mr Ratcliffe has also said he suspects his wife remains in jail because Britain and Iran insist on haggling over the precise interest rate to be paid by the UK to settle a £450m debt from a 1970s arms deal.

Britain had taken upfront payment to supply Chieftain tanks to the Shah of Iran, but pocketed the money and refused to deliver the weapons after the Iranian ruler was deposed in the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

The Iranian government has said Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has always been fairly treated “according to due judicial process” after being “detained due to illegal acts”.

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