There is confusion over the status of Anglo-Iranian political prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with contradictory information about the possibility of her early release from a 20-month detention in Iran.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured), a charity worker for the Thompson Reuters Foundation, was seized in April 2016 as she and her infant daughter were returned from a visit to relatives in Tehran. She was eventually sentenced to a five-year prison term on allegations that she had trained journalists to pursue the overthrow of the Iranian regime.
On Thursday, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyer said an Iranian judicial database had listed her as eligible for early release, changing the status of her case from “closed”. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard said the lawyer was hopeful when he visited the charity worker in prison the previous day.
However, after Richard Ratcliffe’s statements — “it feels like the end is much closer in sight” — were reported, Tehran’s judiciary head said, “Iran’s judiciary cannot confirm any of the claims in Western media about this case. When a decision is made, it will be announced by the Islamic Republic’s judiciary or through diplomatic channels.”
The official issued the warning that there is another case against Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Throughout the autumn, the Iranian judiciary has put pressure on the young mother by summoning her to court and threatening to increase her five-year sentence to 16 years. Iranian State TV has supported the effort by broadcasting specious “evidence” around Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s work for BBC Media Action in 2009-2010.
At the same time, Iranian intelligence services have been waging a campaign against BBC Persian, harassing and intimidating staff by interrogating relatives, seizing assets, and spreading disinformation about sexual behavior.
British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson visited Tehran almost two weeks ago to request the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, meeting President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme Security Council, Ali Shamkhani.
Immediately after the visit, a court appearance for Zaghari-Ratcliffe was postponed.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have imprisoned a series of dual nationals in the past two years, including Iranian-American oil executive Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baqer, a former senior official at UNICEF, both given 10-year sentences; Iranian-Lebanese citizen and US permanent resident Nazar Zaka, sentenced to 10 years; Iranian-American Karan Vafadari and his wife Afarin Neyssari, art gallery owners in Tehran; and Chinese-American historian Xiyue Wang, also punshed with 10 years.