Iran: Zaghari-Ratcliffe sentenced to 5 years imprisonment on secret charges

ARTICLE 19 is extremely concerned by the five year sentence handed down to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, for secret charges, as well as her continued detention. We call for her immediate release and a full release of the charges against her.

On 6 September, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years imprisonment by Judge Salavati of the Iranian Revolutionary Court. She is expected to serve her sentence in Evin prison. The sentence follows her court case in the Revolutionary Court from 14 August 2016.

There have been numerous abnormalities during the trial, including that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has continually been refused access to her lawyer, and has reportedly signed confession under duress. The actual charges for which she is sentenced have not been revealed to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family in Iran or in the UK.

“We urge that Iran upholds its international human rights obligations, including the right to a fair trial: Zaghari-Ratcliffe must be released immediately, and the right to a fair trial must be upheld,” stated ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director, Thomas Hughes.

On 3 April, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Imam Khomeini Airport when returning to the UK from holiday in Iran, visiting her family. Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which delivers charitable projects around the world, but does not work in Iran.

The accusations made against her have been linked to her work at Thomson Reuters Foundation, claiming that she is an “agent” for Thomson Reuters Foundation – whose charitable work is allegedly a cover for intelligence work “used for spying and intelligence operations for Western governments” and part of “an infiltration project.” These are all allegations strongly denied by Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family and lawyer, as well as the Thomson Reuters Foundation, who released this statement on 9 September.

Zaghari-Ratcliffeis currently being kept in Evin Prison in the high security wing under the control of the Revolutionary Guard. Evin Prison’s conditions are notorious for their severity.

On 9 September, Zaghari-Ratcliffewas allowed to call her husband, partly because of Eid Al-Adha in Iran, but also to clarify that she had been sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.  When asked what her charges were, she asked the guard next to her by the phone, who clarified that they were “national security charges.”

Her continued detention, lack of due process throughout her detention and the allegations made against her highlight the threat faced by those working in the NGO sectors and dual citizens linked to media agencies who travel to Iran. “A sentence with secret charges still seems crazy. Literally it is a punishment without a crime.” commented Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family have requested Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyer to appeal the decision. No date for the appeal has yet been set.

Amid increasing and improving diplomatic relations between Iran and the UK, ARTICLE 19 urges the UK, and the international community more widely, to increase pressure on Iran to fulfil its human rights obligations and release Zaghari-Ratcliffe  and the remaining journalists, artists, and human rights defenders who have been detained for their peaceful activities.

ARTICLE 19 will be raising the case with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 13 September 2016 at UN HRC33.