A British-Iranian woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, was sentenced to five years in jail on non-specific charges relating to national security. Her appeal resulted in her conviction being upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court. She is a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable arm. Her final appeal was lodged in January after the confirmation of her sentence in a lower court.
“I hadn’t had great hopes for the supreme court appeal,” said Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, on Monday. “Now, realizing that that’s it, that all options are gone…in the middle of an election cycle, it’s hard to get attention on Nazanin’s case.”
She has spent 387 days behind bars, most of which in Evin prison. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards in April 2016, while she and her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, were about to return to the UK after visiting family. She was tried and found guilty in September.
Ratcliffe has previously claimed that his wife, who has dual nationality, is being used as a pawn in political deals with the UK. Nearly 1 million people have signed a petition in her behalf on Change.org.
An official from the Iranian embassy in London told the Guardian that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained “due to her illegal acts” and that the appeal has been rejected based on information from the country’s judiciary, which acts independently of President Rouhani’s government. Although the exact reasons behind Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s incarceration remain unclear, the Guards have accused her attempting a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic and she has also been accused of being a spy. Her husband denies both charges.
“As her husband, I can say Nazanin is innocent until I am blue in the face. I have spent a year doing it. But it makes a clear difference that the government hasn’t. It indulges the whispers,” said Ratcliffe. “She was a mum on holiday, who works for a development charity in London, whose crime seems to be that it gets funding from the UK government. That is not espionage, that is not attempting to overthrow a regime, and it is not working against national security.”
Ratcliffe said the final appeal was submitted on January 20th. His wife’s lawyer received a call on Tuesday to say that it had been rejected. “Her parents went with Gabriella to meet the judges in [the city of] Qom about a month ago, and only her mum and Gabriella were allowed in for about two minutes; there was no court hearing; on Tuesday her lawyer was told on the telephone and the family had a prison visit [on Sunday] and discussed [the rejection] with her,” said Ratcliffe.
An Iranian official pointed out that many dual nationals travel on a daily basis without any problems. These nationals are respected as Iranian citizens, but they are subject to the same legal processes as other Iranian nationals when committing offences. He also noted that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has full access to a social worker, physician, medical care, medical services, and other necessary facilities, as well as the right to regularly meet her family, including her parents and child. The official also noted that Ratcliffe could apply for a visa on “humanitarian reasons”.
Gabriella’s passport was confiscated by the authorities and she is currently living with her grandparents, while getting to visit her mother twice a week.