The court hearing for Anglo-Iranian political prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was called off at the last minute, after Iranian authorities threatened a new trial of the aid worker.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, confirmed the surprise postponement.

Her MP, Tulip Siddiq said Zaghari-Ratcliffe is relieved but also frustrated, angry, and stressed: “Once again she is being used as a bargaining chip.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, on temporary furlough at her mother’s home, contacted the prosecutor’s office and her lawyer on Sunday morning after the official car taking her to court did not arrive. Her attorney subsequently told her of the suspended hearing.

ORIGINAL ENTRY, SEPT 9: Putting more pressure on the UK Government, Iran’s authorities have threatened a new charge against Anglo-Iranian political prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured).

Cited an unnamed official, State TV said Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned on Tuesday by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran and told of the new indictment.

Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local MP in the UK, tweeted:

The threat comes four days after the UK Government acknowledged a £400 million debt to Iran from the 1970s for the first time.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace wrote to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyer that he is seeking to pay the debt, which arose from non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered by the Shah of Iran before he was removed by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

See Political Prisoner Zaghari-Ratcliffe: UK Acknowledges 1970s Debt to Iran Over Tanks

The statement raised hopes of the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, seized in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after a visit to relatives.

The charity worker was sentenced to five years, on the pretext of her administrative role in a BBC training program for journalists, and Iran’s judiciary has periodically threatened to impose more prison time.

In March, she was released to her mother’s house on temporary furlough amid Iran’s Coronavirus outbreak.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe said of a new indictment:

It has become increasingly clear the past months that Nazanin is a hostage, held as leverage against a UK debt. It is important that the UK government does everything to protect her and others as Iran’s hostage diplomacy continues to escalate.

This starts with the British Embassy insisting it is able to attend Nazanin’s trial on Sunday, and that the UK’s diplomatic protection is treated with respect.