Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: New Sentence in Iran May Cause Irreparable Damage

British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has received a further sentence of one year. It is not clear whether she will be returned to prison or house arrest with an ankle tag. 

Nazanin’s lawyer was summoned to Judge Salavati’s office todaywhere he was told that Nazanin had been found guilty in her second trial for “spreading propaganda against the regime” and that she had received a further one-year sentence and a travel ban for one year.  

It is not clear how Nazanin is expected to serve this sentence, having served the final year of her initial five-year sentence under effective house arrest with an ankle tag.  

Nazanin’s lawyer in Iran intends to appeal the decision 

Following the expiration of her prison sentence and the removal of her ankle tag on 7 March 2021, Nazanin was required to attend court on 14 March 2021 for a trial for a second case. 

The second case was introduced in 2017, when she was charged with “spreading propaganda against the regime.” The case has been invoked inconsistently since that time, without conviction or sentence, until today. 

Iran has never followed the rule of law in Nazanin’s case and she has never received a fair trial. The precise nature of the charges and evidence in this second case remain unclear and indistinct from first case. 

Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS said:

“Nazanin has already suffered severe physical and psychological impacts from the torture and ill-treatment she has been subjected to during the past five years. A further sentence to prison or house arrest may cause irreparable damage to her health.

Nazanin has never received a fair trial in Iran, and is innocent of the allegations made against her. Her detention has always been illegal under international law. The case must be dismissed and she should be allowed to return to her husband and daughter in the UK immediately.

REDRESS has acted as legal representative for Nazanin and her husband Richard Ratcliffe and has campaigned for her release since 2016.   

Last month, REDRESS provided evidence to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of Nazanin’s severe physical and psychological suffering due to Iran’s treatment, confirming that she has been subject to torture. REDRESS also again raised her case with United Nations experts. The UN Special Rapporteur on Iran expressed concern about the new court case before the UN Human Rights Council last week. 

Nazanin’s ongoing detention has previously been found to be illegal under both international and Iranian law. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in 2016 that her detention was arbitrary and requested Iran to release her, and a legal opinion commissioned by REDRESS in 2017 concluded that her detention was also illegal under Iranian law. 

Nazanin was detained in Iran in 2016 on charges of crimes related to national security, which she did not commit, and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. After spending four years in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, in March 2020 Nazanin was placed under house arrest in Tehran with an ankle tag until her sentence ended on 7 March 2021. She has not seen her husband in five years, and has not been able to raise her daughter, who is now six years old. 

Nazanin and her family have been told by Iranian authorities that she is being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran. The debt is the subject of ongoing legal proceedings before the UK courts. 

Notes to editors: 

  1. Nazanin is a British-Iranian charity worker who has been arbitrarily detained in Iran and separated from her husband and daughter for five years. During this time, she has spent more than eight months in solitary confinement and has been denied urgent medical treatment. She is now under house arrest in Iran with an ankle tag.
  2. REDRESS has campaigned for Nazanin’s release since 2016. Following a submission by REDRESS, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in 2016 that her detention was arbitrary and requested Iran to release her. 
  3. Six United Nations Special Rapporteurs have previously stated that Nazanin’s treatment may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture, as prohibited under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. REDRESS considers that Iran’s treatment of Nazanin constitutes torture under Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture. 
  4. In March 2019, following advocacy by REDRESS, the UK Government took the exceptional step of escalating the matter to an inter-state dispute with Iran, through granting Nazanin diplomatic protection. 
  5. REDRESS’s work on Nazanin’s case is carried out in collaboration with Prof John Dugard SC, Alison Macdonald QC and Dr Tatyana Eatwell. 

 Photo credit: Free Nazanin Campaign.