Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.jpg
Born (1978-12-26) 26 December 1978 (age 40)
ResidenceLondon
OccupationJournalism charity administrator
Known forCurrent imprisonment in Iran (July 2019)
Spouse(s)Richard Ratcliffe
Children1

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (Persian: نازنین زاغری رتکلیف‎; born 26 December 1978[1]) 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 allegedly for "...plotting to topple the Iranian government."[2][3]

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".[4]

Arrest and trial[edit]

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. On 3 April 2016, members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard arrested her at the Imam Khomeini Airport as she and her daughter were about to board a flight back to the UK.[5][6] Her daughter's British passport was confiscated during the arrest, but later returned, and she remained in Iran under the care of her maternal grandparents so she could visit her mother.[2][7]

The exact reason for her arrest was initially unclear, though according to Amnesty International it is believed to be related to the 2014 imprisonment of several Iranian technology news website employees. 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."[8]

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has worked for the BBC World Service Trust (now called BBC Media Action),[9] an international charity that provided training courses to Iranian citizen journalists and bloggers in its Iran Media Development Project's ZigZag magazine and associated radio programme.[10] In 2014, several graduates were convicted and sentenced by Iran to up to 11 years in jail for their participation in these courses.[11][12]

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 the Thomson Reuters Foundation.[4][13] BBC Media Action described her role as "junior and purely administrative".[14]

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".[15] 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”.[15] Mashregh News, an outlet close to Iranian authorities, pointed to her alleged involvement with the human rights organizations Women Living Under Muslim Laws and Hivos as a motive for her arrest.[16]

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."[17]

In early September 2016, she was sentenced to five years in prison "for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime."[2][3] The prosecutor general of Tehran 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".[4] PressTV in 2017 reported she had been "found guilty of spying and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic",[18] describing the activities involved as her BBC World Service Trust work:

She identified potential Iranian recruits and invited them to attend the training courses, received and reviewed their resumes, managed financial affairs related to the courses in Malaysia and India, picked trainers, assessed the performance of the participants and managed the ZigZag Academy’s websites.[18]

It was reported in the Guardian Newspaper, 20 March 2011 that the BBC World Service received funding from the USA government.

"BBC World Service is to receive a "significant" sum of money from the US government to help combat the blocking of TV and internet services in countries including Iran and China.

In what the BBC said is the first deal of its kind, an agreement is expected to be signed later this month that will see US state department money – understood to be a low six-figure sum – given to the World Service to invest in developing anti-jamming technology and software.

The funding is also expected to be used to educate people in countries with state censorship in how to circumnavigate the blocking of internet and TV services.

It is understood the US government has decided the reach of the World Service is such that it makes investment worthwhile." [19]

Imprisonment[edit]

On 23 August 2018, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on temporary licence for three days, which is standard practice prior to lengthier releases.[20] However, Zaghari-Ratcliffe suffered from panic attacks after returning to prison, and regretted having been given the temporary release. Her husband said the temporary licence was a "cruel game" subject to conditions including the monitoring of her movements.[21]

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.[22] 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."[23]

On 11 October 2019, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter returned to her father in the United Kingdom to start school.[24]

1971 arms deal dispute[edit]

In February 2018, Richard Ratcliffe said he believed his wife's release was dependent on the interest on a £450 million debt the UK has owed to Iran since the 1970s for a cancelled arms deal.[25][26] In October 2019 he repeated the claim with more detail, stating that a government agency was using "every legal roadblock to delay and minimise the payment".[27]

In 1971, the Iranian government, then under the Shah of Iran, paid Britain for thousands of military vehicles as part of a £650m deal. When the Shah's regime fell, the succeeding Islamic regime asked for a partial refund on undelivered tanks. A complex legal dispute has existed between Britain and Iran ever since.[28]

In 2001, Iran won its case at arbitration against the supplying company, UK government owned International Military Services (IMS). In December 2002, IMS paid £500 million into the Court Funds Office as security, claiming that EU sanctions prevent it from paying any money directly to the Iranian government, to await a High Court action.[28][29][30] The Iranian government has since applied to HM Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation for approval of its payments. A judge has been asked to rule on the final amount owed, which is likely to be around £400 million.[31]

In 2013, Iranian officials coming to Britain to progress court action on the debt had their visas revoked on arrival at Heathrow Airport, and were detained a few days before deportation.[26][30]

In January 2016, the United States refunded Iran $400 million for undelivered military equipment which was associated with the release of four Iranian-Americans, including Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, which could be viewed as a precedent for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's situation.[32][33]

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was allegedly told by her military interrogators of the link between her detention and the disputed arms deal.[31] This claim was denied by both the Iranian Foreign Ministry[34] and the British Foreign Office, with the latter 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.[35]

The UK's Ministry of Defence is reportedly unwilling to release settlement funds because it believes the Iranian Government would use the money to extend Iran's military activities in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.[36] A High Court hearing on the return of the debt was scheduled for May 2019, but as it is an action for enforcement of an arbitration award the proceedings are confidential and private.[37]

Release campaign[edit]

On 7 May 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliffe launched an online petition[38] 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. The petition now has over 2.2 million supporters in 155 countries. Through his lawyers, Richard Ratcliffe has pressed for any settlement of the IMS deal to be paid to an entity other than the Iranian Government's defence ministry, [39] alternatively that the dispute be settled in humanitarian aide rather than cash, thereby circumventing EU sanctions.[40] In April 2019 the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested a prisoner swap.[41]

Boris Johnson intervention[edit]

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."[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]

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.[45][46]

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;[47][48] however, Iranian court officials released a statement that no new charges had been raised and these reports were false.[49] Boris Johnson visited Tehran on 9 December 2017, raising the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.[50]

United Nations[edit]

The United Nations has on several occasions called for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release. On 7 October 2016, the United Nations rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, called on Iran to immediately release Zaghari-Ratcliffe.[51] The call was repeated a year later by Shaheed's successor, Asma Jahangir, as well as by Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: "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".[52] The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had also formally called for her immediate release in its Opinion 28/2016, adopted in August 2016.[52]

Further calls for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release have been made by the US Congress, the Canadian Parliament,[53] and the European Parliament.[54]

Hunger strike[edit]

In June 2019, both Nazanin and Richard Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike, in protest at Nazanin's imprisonment, with Richard Zaghari-Ratcliffe camping outside the Iranian Embassy in London. They both ended the hunger strike on 29 June 2019, after 15 days.[55][56]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spends 40th birthday in Iranian jail". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 June 2019. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "UK-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'jailed on secret charges'". BBC News. 10 September 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b Trew Cairo, Bel (10 October 2017). "British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe facing 16 more years in Iranian jail". The Times. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Saeed Kamali Dehghan (6 November 2017). "Boris Johnson 'mistake' could harm case for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, say family". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Husband of Iranian-British Citizen Held in Iran Calls Her Detainment 'Outrageous' and 'Cruel'". International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. 10 May 2016.
  6. ^ Saeed Kamali Dehghan (9 May 2016). "Briton pleads with Iran to release arrested wife and daughter". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  7. ^ Ferguson, Donna (15 October 2017). "Husband of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran, tells of strain of separation". The Observer. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "History and links to the BBC". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  10. ^ 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)
  11. ^ Saeed Kamali Dehghan (22 January 2017). "UK woman imprisoned in Iran has conviction upheld in appeals court". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  12. ^ Saeed Kamali Dehghan (20 June 2014). "Iran technology news website staff jailed for alleged links to BBC". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  13. ^ "Iran sentences British charity worker to 5 years in jail for espionage". Deutsche Welle. 22 January 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  14. ^ Nursey, Caroline (5 July 2016). "In the matter of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Iran" (PDF). BBC Media Action. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2017.
  15. ^ a b "Zaghari arrested over links to 2009 Iran riots: Official". PressTV. 26 June 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  16. ^ Erdbrink, Thomas (15 June 2016). "Iran Accuses Thomson Reuters Charity Official of Sedition". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 June 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Iran: une espionne arrêtée". PressTV (in French). 16 June 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Iran Judiciary official rejects reports on upcoming release of Zaghari". PressTV. Iran. 22 December 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  19. ^ https://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/mar/20/bbc-world-service-us-funding
  20. ^ "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Iran grants temporary release". BBC News. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  21. ^ Rushton, Simon (2 September 2018). "Jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe regrets getting a temporary taste of freedom". i News. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
  22. ^ Wintour, Patrick (8 March 2019). "Foreign Office grants Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Daughter of Briton jailed in Iran back in UK". BBC. 11 October 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  25. ^ "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe still in jail in Iran 'due to financial dispute". Sky News. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  26. ^ a b 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.
  27. ^ Wintour, Patrick (31 October 2019). "Iran debt row holding back Zaghari-Ratcliffe release, says husband". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2019.
  28. ^ a b "The MoD, the arms deal and a 30-year-old bill for £400m". The Independent. 24 April 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  29. ^ Dunne, Philip (1 July 2013). "Iran". House of Commons. UK Parliament. 1 July 2013 : Column 400W. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  30. ^ a b "International Military Sales Ltd". House of Commons. UK Parliament. 11 March 2014. 11 Mar 2014 : Column 103WH. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  31. ^ a b Sian Griffiths, Jon Ungoed-Thomas and (26 May 2019). "Nazanin case 'linked to £400m payment to Iran'". The Sunday Times. ISSN 0956-1382. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  32. ^ Osborne, Samuel (26 November 2017). "Iran broadcasts pictures it says show jailed British mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe trained journalists". The Independent. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  33. ^ Sara Elizabeth Williams (26 November 2017). "Iran claims 'proof' Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists before arrest". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  34. ^ "Zaghari's Case Not Linked to UK Debts to Iran". Kayhan International. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  35. ^ Oliphant, Roland (22 February 2018). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release 'linked to interest on UK debt to Iran'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  36. ^ editor, Patrick Wintour Diplomatic (28 May 2019). "MoD and Foreign Office clash over £400m debt linked to Zaghari-Ratcliffe release". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  37. ^ Andrew, Stuart (29 April 2019). "Iran: International Military Services:Written question - 245905". House of Commons. UK Parliament. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
  38. ^ "Free Nazanin Ratcliffe". Change.org. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
  39. ^ editor, Patrick Wintour Diplomatic (28 May 2019). "MoD and Foreign Office clash over £400m debt linked to Zaghari-Ratcliffe release". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  40. ^ "Husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe urges government to use aid to help secure her release". The Independent. 2 June 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  41. ^ "Iran offers Zaghari-Ratcliffe prisoner swap". 24 April 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  42. ^ "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.
  43. ^ 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.
  44. ^ "Boris Johnson admits Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe comments 'could have been clearer' as Brit faces extended jail spell". The Independent.
  45. ^ "Fears for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after Boris Johnson remark". BBC News. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  46. ^ 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.
  47. ^ Bulman, May (23 November 2017). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to face second charge of 'spreading propaganda' in Iranian court". The Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  48. ^ Whiteside, Philip (26 November 2017). "Iran makes fresh allegations against jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe". Sky News. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
  49. ^ "Iranian Judiciary Denies Sunday Court Trial for Zaghari". Kayhan International. 10 December 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  50. ^ 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.
  51. ^ "U.N. rights envoy urges Iran to free three dual nationals". Reuters. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  52. ^ a b "OHCHR | Iran: UN rights experts urge immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after fresh charges". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  53. ^ "After Hunger Strike, This Is What's Next For Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's Fight For Justice". HuffPost UK. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
  54. ^ "Brexit Party MEPs abstain from vote calling for release of detained British citizen in Iran". The Independent. 19 September 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  55. ^ Busby, Mattha (16 June 2019). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband: I will join hunger strike for as long as I can". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
  56. ^ "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ends Iran hunger strike after 15 days". BBC News. 29 June 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2019.