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British charity worker loses appeal in Iran

January 22, 2017

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has both British and Iranian citizenship, was charged with trying to overthrow the government. Her daughter has also not been allowed to leave the country.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Image: Getty Images/C. J. Ratcliffe

A British-Iranian charity worker was sentenced to five years in prison for trying to overthrow the government in Tehran, authorities announced Sunday. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has already been in detention for ten months since her April 2016 arrest on charges of espionage and sedition.

She was arrested when trying to leave the country with her young daughter after a visit to her family. Her passport was seized and the toddler has been forced to remain in Iran, where she is cared for by her grandparents.

The 37-year-old was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the British news agency. Although Zaghari-Ratcliffe has UK citizenship, Iran does not recognize dual nationality and so she cannot appeal to the British consulate for help.

In Iran, trials against suspects with two passports are often conducted behind closed doors in front of a special court that handles cases related to spying.

Vague charges

Although many of the details of the charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe have not been made public, her husband Richard Ratcliffe has said that among other things, his wife is accused of working for BBC Farsi, which he says is patently false. BBC Persian Television has been the subject of repeated government criticism for "encouraging" illegal protests and inciting the public, something the broadcaster categorically denies.

"Nazanin has never worked for BBC Farsi. She served in a junior capacity as a Training Assistant for BBC Media Action, the charitable arm of the BBC, from 2009 to 2010," said Monique Villa, the CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

British Prime Minister Theresa May personally voiced her concerns about Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a television call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last August, but to no avail. According to a judiciary spokesman, her sentence has been "finalized," likely meaning that she has lost her last chance at appeal.

es/kl (AP, AFP)