TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s state television, citing an unnamed official, announced on Tuesday that British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is facing a new charge.
The report did not elaborate beyond saying that Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeared on Tuesday monring before a branch of the country’s Revolutionary Court in Tehran, where she was first sentenced in 2017.
Calls to both Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s attorney and the court were not immediately returned.
The new charges come as Britain and Iran negotiate the release of some 400 million pounds ($530 million) held by London, a payment the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi made for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered. The shah abandoned the throne in 1979 and the Islamic Revolution soon installed the clerically overseen system that endures today. Tehran has denied that her detention was linked to the alleged repayment deal.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe this spring was granted temporary release from prison due to the coronavirus pandemic after serving nearly all of her five-year sentence. Iran has been hit hard by the virus, becoming the worst-affected country in the Middle East. Since then, it has reported more than 391,000 cases and 22,542 deaths. Tens of thousands of inmates were released as Iran tried to curb the spread of the virus in its crowded prisons.
Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so detainees like Zaghari-Ratcliffe cannot receive consular assistance. A U.N. panel has described “an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals” in Iran, which Tehran denies.
Analysts and family members of dual nationals and others detained in Iran say hard-liners in the Islamic Republic’s security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested during a holiday with her toddler daughter in April 2016. Her family says she was in Iran only to visit family, vigorously denying the charges that she was plotting the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government. At the time, Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report.