Hearing in new trial of British-Iranian woman postponed at last minute

Hearing in new trial of British-Iranian woman postponed at last minute

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being ‘treated like a bargaining chip,’ says British MP; UK-Iran citizen has spent over 4 years in jail or under house arrest

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter, Gabriella, in 2016. (AFP)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter, Gabriella, in 2016. (AFP)

LONDON, United Kingdom — Iran has postponed a new trial due to start Sunday of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman detained in Tehran for sedition, her husband said.

“Yes, today’s hearing was postponed,” Richard Ratcliffe told AFP in London. Her Iranian lawyer was told “the case was not happening today,” he added.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has spent more than four years in jail or under house arrest since being arrested in the Iranian capital in April 2016 while vising relatives with her young daughter.

Iranian state television’s website Iribnews said on Tuesday that she and her lawyer had been notified of a new indictment, without giving further details or a trial date.

Ratcliffe had said last week that she was due to appear in court on Sunday, and that it was “increasingly clear” she was being held as a “hostage” against a longstanding UK debt to Iran.

The new indictment comes as Britain and Iran negotiate the release of some 400 million pounds ($530 million) held by London, a payment the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi made for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered. The shah abandoned the throne in 1979 and the Islamic Revolution soon installed the clerically overseen system that endures today.

Authorities in London and Tehran deny that Zaghari-Ratcliffe is linked to the repayment deal. But a prisoner exchange that freed four American citizens in 2016 saw the US pay a similar sum to Iran the same day of their release.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation — the media organization’s philanthropic arm — denied sedition but was convicted and jailed for five years.

Richard Ratcliffe husband of imprisoned Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, during an Amnesty International-led vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London, January 16, 2017. (AP/Alastair Grant)

British MP Tulip Siddiq also relayed the news of Sunday’s postponement after speaking to Ratcliffe.

“She is relieved, frustrated, stressed and angry. Once again she’s being treated like a bargaining chip,” Siddiq tweeted.

Iranian authorities have arrested a number of dual citizens on security-related charges since the Islamic Republic reached a nuclear accord with world powers in 2015, in a crackdown led by hard-liners in the security services and the judiciary.

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