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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran told to expect new conviction: family

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has served more than two years in prison for unspecified charges against the regime

Richard Ratcliffe husband of imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, poses for the media during an Amnesty International led vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, FILE)
Richard Ratcliffe husband of imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, poses for the media during an Amnesty International led vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, FILE)

A British-Iranian woman held in a Tehran prison for more than two years has been told to expect a new conviction for spreading propaganda against the regime, her husband said on Monday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 39, was taken to court on Saturday and was shown a 200-page dossier detailing the case against her, said her husband Richard Ratcliffe in a statement.

The file included photos and press coverage of her detention and activities of the campaigning group that has been seeking her release following undisclosed charges of seeking to overthrow the regime.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charity wing of the Thomson Reuters news organisation, was arrested and later jailed for five years while visiting family in Iran with her young daughter Gabriella. She is currently held in Tehran’s Evin prison where she is on medication for depression and panic attacks.

She was brought before Judge Abolghassem Salavati of Tehran's hard-line Revolutionary Court on Saturday where she learned that her current lawyer would not be allowed to represent her.

She had denied committing any crime and appealed for clemency so that she might be able to have a second child, said Mr Ratcliffe. “The judge told Nazanin to expect that likely there will be another conviction and sentence against her,” he said.

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The development comes amid a period of heightened tension following US president Donald Trump’s decision to withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal. The UK along with France, Germany, China and Russia – the other guarantors of the deal – want to continue with the agreement which lifts in sanctions in return for Iran not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

There has been a sharp uptick in detentions since 2015 when the deal was put in place with two British-Iranian dual nationals and a third woman who worked for a British cultural organisation held since April.

The Iranian foreign ministry has suggested that the couple’s daughter – who remains in Iran with the detained woman’s parents – writes a letter to ask for her mother’s release to join her for her fourth birthday next month, said Mr Ratcliffe.

The letter was being sent to the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and to his UK counterpart, Boris Johnson.

Following the fresh charge, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was allowed to make call from prison to speak with the UK ambassador for the first time in more than two years.

She asked the ambassador for a visit from Mr Johnson when he next visits the country. The family made an unsuccessful previous request before Mr Johnson made his last visit to the country.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “This weekend we have had mixed news. The threatened court case has become real, the refusal of her lawyer is not a good omen of justice. But also Nazanin was allowed to call the British Embassy for the first time.”

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We will continue to approach each case in a way that we judge is most likely to secure the outcome we all want.

"Therefore we will not be providing a running commentary on every twist and turn."