Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Persian: نازنین زاغری رتکلیف) is a British-Iranian dual citizen who has been detained in Iran since 3 April 2016. In early September 2016 she was sentenced to five years' imprisonment "for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian government."
The prosecutor general of Tehran had stated in October 2017 that she was being held for running "a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran".
Arrest and trial
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Canadian news agency Thomson Reuters' charitable arm, travelled to Iran on 17 March 2016 to visit her family for Nowruz (Iranian New Year) with her 22-month-old daughter Gabriella. On 3 April 2016, members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard arrested her at the Imam Khomeini Airport as she and daughter were about to board a flight back to the UK. Her daughter's British passport was confiscated during the arrest, but later returned, and she remains in Iran under the care of her maternal grandparents so she can visit her mother.
The exact reason for her arrest was initially unclear, though according to Amnesty International it is believed related to the 2014 imprisonment of several Iranian technology news website employees. Zaghari-Ratcliffe used to work for the international charity the BBC World Service Trust (now called BBC Media Action), which provided training courses to Iranian citizen journalists and bloggers, some of whom were convicted in 2014 and sentenced to up to 11 years in jail for participating in the foreign training course. The head of Kerman province's justice department, Ali Tavakoli, said they had participated in projects run by the BBC and received funds from London:
This gang was running a number of projects and plans for anti-revolutionary Iranians based abroad, especially for the BBC Persian, under the guise of legitimate activities. Financial aid for this group was usually provided from London under the pretext of charitable donations. The director of the team was an individual who has served the BBC as a mentor and teacher in a number of countries such as Malaysia, India and Afghanistan and his travels to these countries were paid for by British intelligence services.
Nazanin worked for the BBC World Service Trust between February 2009 and October 2010, "in a junior capacity as a Training Assistant" according to the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, before moving to Thomson Reuters Foundation. BBC Media Action described her role as "junior and purely administrative".
According to Yadollah Movahed, the head of the Justice Department in the Iranian city of Kerman, and as reported by the Iranian news network Press TV, Nazanin was arrested "over her involvement in post-election riots that engulfed Tehran and some other cities in 2009". Movahed said Zaghari was among the suspects who "conducted activities against the security of the country by designing websites and carrying out campaigns in the media” during 2009. According to Movahed, Nazanin was not arrested for activity inside Iran or for activity during her 2016 holiday to Iran: “Some members of the group were outside Iran, including the suspect Nazanin Zaghari”.
According to Press TV in June 2016 "The CGRI headquarters in Kerman province announced that Nazanin Zaghari had been identified after a large intelligence operation. She was one of the liaison officers of networks hostile to Iran abroad. According to this source, she was responsible for several missions, and conducted her criminal activities under the direction of media and intelligence services of foreign governments."
In early September 2016 she was sentenced to five years in prison "for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime." The prosecutor general of Tehran had stated in October 2017 that she was imprisoned for running "a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran".
On 1 November 2017, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said "When we look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it, at the very limit." These remarks appear to have put her at risk, prompting condemnation from politicians across the spectrum including Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, leading to calls for Boris Johnson to be sacked. A central part of Zaghari-Ratcliffe's defence was that she was there on a holiday and never worked to train journalists in the country. Her employer, Thomson Reuters Foundation, called on Johnson to "immediately correct the serious mistake he made" in this statement. They added "She is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the Thomson Reuters Foundation". Four days later, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to court in Iran where the Foreign Secretary's statement was cited as evidence against her.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was thought likely to appear in court again on 10 December 2017 to face additional charges relating to her work for the BBC World Service Trust; however, Iranian court officials released a statement that no new charges had been raised and these reports were false. Boris Johnson visited Tehran on 9 December 2017, raising the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
On 7 May 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliffe launched an online petition urging both the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Iran's supreme leader to take appropriate action to secure the safe return of his wife and daughter Gabriella. Ratcliffe's petition has been signed by over 1.5 million supporters in over 155 countries.
In February 2018 her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said that he believed her release was dependent on the interest rate on a £450 million debt the UK has owed to Iran since the 1970s for a cancelled arms deal. Both the Iranian Foreign Ministry and the British Foreign Office denied this, with the British Foreign Office stating:
This is a longstanding case and relates to contracts signed over 40 years ago with the pre-revolution Iranian regime. We and the Iranians reject any idea the two issues are linked. Funding to settle the debt was paid to the High Court by the Treasury and the International Military Services in 2002. Iran's Ministry of Defence remains subject to EU sanctions.
On 23 August 2018, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on temporary licence for three days, which is standard practice prior to lengthier releases.
In March 2019 the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) granted Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection, raising the status of her case from a consular matter to a dispute between the two governments. Iran argues the designation is contrary to international law, the Master Nationality Rule, with Iran’s ambassador in London stating "Governments may only exercise such protection for own nationals, ... Iran does not recognise dual nationality."
The United Nations has on several occasions called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. On 7 October 2016, the United Nations rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed called on Iran to immediately release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
The call was repeated by Mr. Shaheed's successor a year later. On 21 October 2017, Ms. Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, called on Iran to release Zaghari-Ratcliffe and said, "We consider that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been arbitrarily deprived of her liberty and that her right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal has been violated … These are flagrant violations of Iran’s obligations under international law". The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had also formally called for her immediate release in its Opinion 28/2016 adopted in August 2016.
- "UK-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'jailed on secret charges'". BBC News. 10 September 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- Trew Cairo, Bel (10 October 2017). "British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe facing 16 more years in Iranian jail". The Times. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (6 November 2017). "Boris Johnson 'mistake' could harm case for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, say family". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- "Husband of Iranian-British Citizen Held in Iran Calls Her Detainment 'Outrageous' and 'Cruel'". International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. 10 May 2016.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (9 May 2016). "Briton pleads with Iran to release arrested wife and daughter". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- Ferguson, Donna (15 October 2017). "Husband of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran, tells of strain of separation". The Observer. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- "History and links to the BBC". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- Anna Godfrey, Michael Thelwall, Mahmood Eneyat (2008). Generating new media and new participation in Iran: The Case of ZigZag (PDF) (Report). BBC World Service Trust. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2017.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (22 January 2017). "UK woman imprisoned in Iran has conviction upheld in appeals court". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (20 June 2014). "Iran technology news website staff jailed for alleged links to BBC". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (10 July 2014). "Why isn't the BBC protesting about Aliasghar Honarmand's jailing in Iran?". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- "Iran sentences British charity worker to 5 years in jail for espionage". Deutsche Welle. 22 January 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- Nursey, Caroline (5 July 2016). "In the matter of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Iran" (PDF). BBC Media Action. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Zaghari arrested over links to 2009 Iran riots: Official". PressTV. 26 June 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
- "PressTV-Iran: une espionne arrêtée". Press TV.
- "Oral evidence: Oral Evidence from the Foreign Secretary November 2017, HC 538". House of Commons. UK Parliament. 1 November 2017. Q73. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- "Theresa May Exit Date Betting and Odds". betting.betfair.com.
- Helm, Toby; Quinn, Ben; Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (12 November 2017). "Sack Boris Johnson for shaming our nation, Jeremy Corbyn tells PM". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
- Kirby, Will (12 November 2017). "Labour plot to oust Boris: Corbyn & Khan urge May to SACK Foreign Minister after 'gaffes'". Daily Express.
- "Boris Johnson admits Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe comments 'could have been clearer' as Brit faces extended jail spell". The Independent.
- "Fears for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after Boris Johnson remark". BBC News. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Oliphant, Roland (6 November 2017). "Boris Johnson 'mistake' risks fresh prison term in Iran for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, family warn". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Bulman, May (23 November 2017). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to face second charge of 'spreading propaganda' in Iranian court". The Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
- Whiteside, Philip (26 November 2017). "Iran makes fresh allegations against jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe". Sky News. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
- "Iranian Judiciary Denies Sunday Court Trial for Zaghari". Kayhan International. 10 December 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
- Sara Elizabeth Williams (11 December 2017). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hails 'light at the end of the tunnel' after Boris Johnson's Iran visit". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
- "Free Nazanin Ratcliffe". Change.org. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe still in jail in Iran 'due to financial dispute". Sky News. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- Patrick Wintour; Saeed Kamali Dehghan (16 November 2017). "UK hopes to end long legal dispute with Iran over 1976 arms deal". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
- "Zaghari's Case Not Linked to UK Debts to Iran". Kayhan International. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
- Oliphant, Roland (22 February 2018). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release 'linked to interest on UK debt to Iran'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Iran grants temporary release". BBC News. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- Wintour, Patrick (8 March 2019). "Foreign Office grants Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- Josie Ensor; Ahmed Vahdat (8 March 2019). "Iran says UK's diplomatic protection for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'against international law'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- ""U.N. rights envoy urges Iran to free three dual nationals"". Reuters. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
- "OHCHR | Iran: UN rights experts urge immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after fresh charges". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 20 October 2017.