Iran has reportedly indicted three dual nationals currently behind bars in the country, including Nazanin Zaghari who has been held in solitary confinement for more than three months.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable arm, was arrested in early April in Tehran by Revolutionary Guards at Imam Khomeini airport, where she and her 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, had been about to board a flight back to the UK.
On Monday local news agencies quoted Tehran’s prosecutor general, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, as saying that she along with Homa Hoodfar, an Canadian-Iranian professor of social anthropology, and Siamak Namazi, an American-Iranian businessman, had been formally charged.
The exact charges they are facing have not yet been revealed. All three were arrested separately in the past year. Their cases “have been referred for processing to court”, according to the prosecutor general.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said: “I had hoped that Nazanin would be released for the Eid at the end of Ramadan, and requested it from the supreme leader and from the head of the judiciary directly and via the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs. However, the case has now been transferred to pre-court.”
Criticising the British government over its handling of his wife’s case, Ratcliffe suggested that the tumultuous politics surrounding the EU referendum had lessened interest in her fate.
“It has been a reality check for me that no UK minister has expressed public criticism of Iranian actions or said that it is wrong to use a British mother and baby as a political bargaining chip,” he said.
“I find that silence conspicuous. I imagine the Iranian authorities have noticed it also and have drawn their own conclusions about how much it matters that British citizens are treated this way.
“As the politics of Brexit calm down, I hope that after 100 days British political leadership is again able to focus on Nazanin’s and Gabriella’s situation and solve it before another 100 days pass.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP, Tulip Siddiq, is due to raise her case with the foreign office on Tuesday at a House of Commons session. She and Ratcliffe will also visit Downing Street to deliver a letter.
Activists fear that cases against dual nationals are becoming a worrying trend in Iran, with Tehran sending mixed messages about its readiness to engage with the outside world following last year’s nuclear deal.
Dolatabadi also reportedly announced on Monday that a Lebanese technology expert, Nizar Zakka, who has been held in Iran since last September, had been indicted. Zakka, a Washington-based expert who has a US permanent residency but not US citizenship, was arrested while attending an entrepreneurship conference in Tehran on an invitation by the Iranian government. He has since been accused of spying for the US.
All four arrests were made by members of Revolutionary Guards, which act independently of Hassan Rouhani’s government and have sought to undermine his administration on various occasions.
Ratcliffe said the guards had hinted to his wife’s family that they were willing to release her as part of an unspecific deal with the UK government. “The fact that the Revolutionary Guard are willing to close Nazanin’s case if the right deal can be done highlights just how arbitrary it is,” he said.
“That the Iranian authorities are willing to hold a mother and baby hostage for domestic politics and as a bargaining chip in their international negotiations shows that they have reached a very dark place. It is a strange way to do business and conduct international diplomacy.”
Since her arrest, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been separated from Gabriella, who is solely British and does not have Iranian nationality. The child has been placed in the care of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family in Iran and her passport confiscated.
Other dual nationals from the US, the UK and France are currently behind bars or facing interrogations, often accused of espionage or collaborating with hostile governments. Iran does not recognise dual nationality, and treats detainees only as Iranian, depriving them of consular access. The guards, in particular, have deep suspicions of such citizens.
The British Foreign Office said in a statement it has done everything it could to support Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family. “However, Iran does not recognise dual nationality and therefore does not grant access to dual nationals. We have raised this case repeatedly and at the highest levels and will continue to do so at every available opportunity.”
Amnesty International UK’s Felix Jakens said: “As every day has gone by our concerns for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe have grown. We’re extremely worried that she’s being used as a political pawn. We’ve always thought that her situation had all the hallmarks of a spurious, trumped-up case designed to exert diplomatic pressure on a western country.
“The Iranian authorities should resolve this now by either charging her with an internationally recognised offence or by releasing her as soon as possible and allowing her to travel with her daughter back to the UK.”
Hoodfar, 65, had travelled to Iran in February, principally for personal reasons, but she also continued her academic research while in the country, her family said. In March, Guards forces raided Hoodfar’s flat a day before she had been due to fly to London. The authorities confiscated her belongings and passports and summoned her for regular questioning before arresting her in early June.
Namazi was jailed with no explanation in October after visiting his family. Other dual nationals held in Iran include Kamal Foroughi, a British-Iranian businessman, and Namazi’s 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, a former Unicef official. A French-Iranian, Nazak Afshar, who is a former employee of the French embassy in Tehran, was sentenced to six years in April.
Source: The Guardian