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Iran Again Insists British-Iranian Mother Facing Second Trial Over New Charges

Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, undated

After months of contradictory announcements by Iranian authorities on the fate of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Iran on political charges, the Islamic Republic has again tightened the screws.

State-run Mehr News Agency, MNA cited Tehran’s judiciary chief as saying on January 12 that Ms. Baghari is serving her sentence and there is no talk of her release.

“Apart from the sentence she is serving now, there is another court case against her which is going through legal proceedings,” Gholamhosein Esmaili reiterated.

Esmaili’s comments have coincided with a meeting between Javad Zarif and Boris Johnson, Iranian and British Foreign Ministers in Brussels.

Boris Johnson had earlier announced that he was set to raise the case of the jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with his Iranian counterpart at an international summit, in the Belgian capital.

Zarif, Johnson, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and their German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel as well as EU high representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini held a summit focused on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA or Tehran nuclear deal with the world powers.

Before meeting Zarif on the margins of the summit, Johnson, while insisting on the necessity of keeping JCPOA intact, had affirmed, “I will be making it clear to foreign minister Zarif, on the subject of the recent protests in Iran, that the right to peaceful demonstration within the law is central to any truly thriving society."

"I will also raise all of our Iranian dual-national consular cases."

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson answers an urgent question on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in the House of Commons chamber in London, November 13, 2017
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson answers an urgent question on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in the House of Commons chamber in London, November 13, 2017

Earlier, former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had also maintained that in his recent trip to Iran to attend the Second Tehran Security Conference, he negotiated with Iranian officials concerning Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the necessity of her immediate release from Tehran’s notorious prison, Evin.

Describing his talks with the Islamic Republic’s representatives as friendly, Jack Straw said, “we offered strong reasons for the necessity of releasing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another [British-Iranian citizen, Kamal Foroughi] prisoner based on humanitarian concerns.”

Furthermore, Jack Straw declared that Iranian officials have told him they are taking this option into consideration.

The 39-year-old mother-of-one, Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north London, was arrested in April 2016 is currently serving a five-year sentence over allegations of plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic’s regime. She denies the allegations.

Now, based on the latest comments made by Tehran’s judiciary chief, Esmaili, it appears that efforts by Boris Johnson and Jack Straw to secure her release have not only been unsuccessful, but the Islamic Republic’s judiciary is resolved to try the dual-citizen for new charges.

Referring to Zagahri-Ratcliffe’s “other case”, Esmaili told MNA, “Her case is now pending at the court and judges are investigating it. No time for a hearing has been determined yet.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe already convicted for allegedly planning the "soft overthrow" of Islamic regime, while traveling there with her toddler daughter Gabriella, faces fresh propaganda charges that could add sixteen years to her prison term.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity that operates independently from the Reuters news agency. She denies the charges against her and insists she was in Iran on a personal visit. The Thomson Reuters Foundation has also said she was not on assignment while in Iran.

The new charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe apparently stem from a statement made by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who told a parliamentary committee on November 1, 2017 that she had been "training journalists" in Iran.

Johnson faced calls to resign last month after his comments that critics said could lead to an extended prison sentence for her.

Johnson later apologized for the statement, saying it was not true and affirming that the woman had only been visiting relatives in the Islamic republic.

On November 4, however, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was brought to an unscheduled court hearing, at which Johnson's comments were used as evidence for a new charge that she had been spreading "propaganda against the regime."