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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who has been jailed in Tehran for two years, is facing a new charge against her in Iran, her husband says.

A May 21 statement from Richard Ratcliffe said his wife learned of the new allegation of "spreading propaganda against the regime" at a hearing before a judge of Tehran's hard-line Revolutionary Court two days earlier.

He said the judge told her to expect that “there will likely be another conviction and sentence against her." The 39-year-old denied the new accusation.

Following her court appearance, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was able to speak to the British ambassador to Tehran for the first time in more than two years, her campaign said.

It added that she discussed with both the judge and the ambassador a request for her to be let out on temporary release for her daughter's fourth birthday next month.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the parent company of Reuters, is serving a five-year jail sentence in Iran after being convicted of plotting against the government, which she denied.

Her employer and the British government say she was in Iran visiting relatives when she was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 while traveling home with her daughter.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the government was committed “to doing everything possible to help secure Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release and alleviate her suffering."

In a telephone call earlier this month, May asked Iranian President Hassan Rohani for Zaghari-Ratcliffe other British prisoners held in the country to be released on "humanitarian grounds."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and the BBC
The LGBT rainbow flag flies outside the British Embassy in Minsk.

Belarusian officials are still hung up over a rainbow flag that was flying outside the British Embassy in Minsk last week to acknowledge International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT).

The kerfuffle started three days before the May 17 IDAHOT when the embassy flew the flag alongside British and European Union flags to promote the rights of the LGBT community and draw public attention to the discrimination LGBT people face around the world.

The move was accompanied by a video put out by the embassy to commemorate the day, with Ambassador Fionna Gibb saying Britain is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of members of the LGBT community.

On May 20, the Belarusian Interior Ministry fired back in a tersely worded statement accusing the British government of trying to “create problems where they do not exist” and asserting that “same-sex relationships are fake.”

“This day has never been and is not in any way memorable or significant in our country,” the statement said.

“The reason is obvious: The overwhelming majority of Belarusians adhere to traditional family values, including Christian ones. A statement of this kind [by the British Embassy] is a challenge to these values,” it added.

Olga Rapinchuk, a spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Minsk, told RFE/RL by telephone on May 21 that it would not comment on the ministry’s statement.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Belarus face deep-rooted homophobia, discrimination, and the threat of violence, activists and human rights defenders say.

They add that repression and violence against LGBT people in former Soviet republics such as Belarus has been encouraged by Russia’s 2013 law criminalizing the distribution to minors of “distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relationships.”

Belarus's LGBT intolerance was on full display in October 2017 when police raided nightclubs popular with the LGBT community, during which two clubs were shuttered and patrons were harassed, with some even being detained by police.

A year earlier, Belarus reportedly led a group of 17 countries to block a plan to include LGBT rights in a new urban strategy crafted by the United Nations, according to Reuters.

Aleh Hulak, chairman of the Belarus Helsinki Committee, called the statement “decidedly homophobic” and noted that the ministry’s function is not to moralize.

“We would question the legality of such statements and ask they remove this material from the website and refrain from further comments of this kind,” he said.

With reporting by Alan Crosby and Carl Schreck in Prague

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