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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Iran to try jailed British-Iranian aid worker on fresh charges

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's employer continues to assert her full innocence

Husband of imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Richard Ratcliffe, poses for the media during an Amnesty International led vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Ratcliffe said on Tuesday that his wife may face new charges. Alastair Grant / AP
Husband of imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Richard Ratcliffe, poses for the media during an Amnesty International led vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Ratcliffe said on Tuesday that his wife may face new charges. Alastair Grant / AP

A detained British-Iranian aid worker sentenced to five years in jail in Iran is to face a second trial on new security charges, the semi-official Tasnim news agency on Saturday quoted Tehran Revolutionary Court's head Musa Ghazanfarabadi as saying.

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

She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the foundation, a charity organisation that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson discussed Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case with Iranian officials after flying to Tehran in December to try to seek her release. "Ghazanfarabadi said the charge against Zaghari in the new case is security-related but did not say whether it was espionage or another charge," Tasnim reported.

"Zaghari is to present an attorney and then the court will convene," Mr Ghazanfarabadi said.

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Reuters was unable to determine the identity of the lawyer. Asked for comment by Reuters, Britain's Foreign Office said on Saturday that it would not provide a commentary on "every twist and turn".

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said it was not clear what the latest charges involved.

"To go back a week, she had met with the judge... who said there would be a charge of spreading propaganda against the regime, that's a very mild form of security charge so hopefully it's just that," he told BBC TV.

In a statement on Monday, the Thomson Reuters Foundation said it totally rejected "the renewed accusations that Nazanin is guilty of spreading propaganda" and said it continued to assert her full innocence.

In response to an urgent question in parliament on Tuesday about her situation, British Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt said Prime Minister Theresa May had raised all consular cases with President Hassan Rouhani in a call earlier this month. He did not provide further details.

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He also said the British ambassador in Tehran had spoken to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe last Sunday.

"We remain of the assessment that a private, rather than public approach is most likely to result in progress in Nazanin's case and ultimately, her release, which is all any of us want," he said.

Iran does not recognise dual citizenship, which limits the access foreign embassies have to their dual citizens held there.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested at least 30 dual nationals during the past two years, mostly on spying charges, according to lawyers, diplomats and relatives, Reuters reported in November.

According to former prisoners, families of current ones and diplomats, in some cases the detainees are kept to be used for a prisoner exchange with western countries. Iran denies the accusation.

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