Husband of UK woman held in Iran for 5 years fears second conviction

·3-min read
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeared before a Tehran court Sunday to face new charges of "propaganda against the system"

The husband of the British-Iranian dual national facing new charges a week after finishing a five-year sentence said Sunday that his wife was a "political bargaining chip" who would be convicted again.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe appeared before a Tehran court Sunday to face new charges of "propaganda against the system", just days after having her tag removed after serving a five-year sentence.

Husband Richard Ratcliffe told AFP that he expected her to receive "the maximum sentence" when the ruling is handed down in seven working days.

"I've never seen an acquittal from a revolutionary court," he said.

But he hoped that the time she has already served would be taken into account, and that any remaining time could be served under house arrest at her parent's house in Tehran rather than in prison.

"We could get a one-year sentence or two-year sentence or whatever," he explained, adding that he believed the term depended largely on negotiations between the British and Iranian governments.

"If she got put back in prison, regardless of the time, that's a really bad sign," he said.

"If they do anything that leads that way, then clearly the negotiations have fallen down."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained while on holiday in 2016 and convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime in Tehran.

They both strenuously deny the charges, with Ratcliffe saying his wife "is a political bargaining chip".

Although now free of her tag, she has been unable to return to Britain as new charges loomed.

"Nazanin is in some ways is facing the prospect of some significant bad news, going back to prison....

"It's one suitcase in each hand. That sort of structural uncertainty... is a key part of the abuse. You remain their toy," he said.

- Mother's Day call -

Ratcliffe spoke to his wife after her court appearance, saying it had "been a turmoil, but probably better than we were fearing.

"She was she was really stressed beforehand. Right now, it's just, 'I don't have to see those interrogators again'," he said.

"It is certain interrogators, who are the guys you see in court every time and... the fear comes back whenever you see them."

He urged the British government to do more to help his wife, saying they were "patently" not doing enough at the moment.

"It's still at the level of talk rather than action," he said.

"The government didn't accompany Nazanin to the court, and the embassy didn't go. They're keeping their heads below the parapet at some level.

"If you want to protect someone, you do need to stand next to them in a very visible way."

He believes his wife will not taste freedom until Britain settles a disputed historic debt with Tehran.

"I think that has been clear from 2016," he said.

Ratcliffe hoped the couple's six-year-old daughter Gabriella would be able to mark Mother's Day, which was celebrated on Sunday in Britain, with a phone call.

"We'll try and call her and have... as much as a normal intimate kind of shared moment later on.

"We promised mummy was coming home at a certain point. And then she didn't, and that broken promise aspect she understands very clearly.

"Certainly, she's quite she's quite cuddly in a slightly sad way today," said Ratcliffe.

"What is hard for us at the moment still, is it's not clear how much longer this is going to go on for.., your life is not your own. It's a very hard place to live," he added.