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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

An Iranian appeals court has upheld a ruling that adds another year to the prison sentence of an Iranian-British woman who has already served a five-year prison sentence in Tehran, according to her lawyer.

The initial court ruling against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe also included a one-year-travel ban abroad, meaning Zaghari-Ratcliffe cannot leave Iran to join her husband and now 7-year-old daughter in London for nearly two more years.

In April, the court sentenced Zaghari-Ratcliffe on charges that she had spread “propaganda against the system” when she participated in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.

Lawyer Hojjat Kermani said on October 16 that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "concerned" when he informed her about the appeals court decision at a closed-door hearing. He said that she was in touch with her family about the decision.

Employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the Reuters news agency, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken into custody at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport in April 2016 when she tried to return to her home in Britain after visiting family in Iran.

She was then sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government -- a charge that she, her supporters, and rights groups deny.

Rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West.

Tehran denies that it jails dual nationals to use as bargaining chips.

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, so detainees like Zaghari-Ratcliffe cannot receive consular assistance.

Authorities recently furloughed Zaghari-Ratcliffe from prison because of the surging coronavirus pandemic. She has been restricted to her parents’ home in Tehran since.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
According to Gulagu.net, "Syarhey" arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris on October 16 on a flight from an unspecified country in northern Africa.

The source of a massive leak of information, including videos, of alleged torture and sexual assaults in Russia's penitentiary system has fled to France, where he plans to seek political asylum.

The news was confirmed on October 16 by Vladimir Osechkin, a prominent Russian human rights defender, who runs the anti-torture project Gulagu.net, which has released much of the video.

Osechkin had described his source for the massive leak only as a Belarusian IT engineer who had been incarcerated in a prison in Saratov where he faced abuse, calling him only "Syarhey."

According to Gulagu.net, Syarhey arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris on October 16 on a flight from an unspecified country in northern Africa. It said he had immediately turned to police at the airport in the French capital for help on seeking asylum.

It also included a photo on its Telegram channel depicting someone it said was Syarhey at the airport.

Gulagu.net on October 4 began publishing the first batch of videos that it claimed show prison inmates being tortured by agents of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN).

Osechkin wrote on Facebook on October 4 that the videos "prove" that FSB and FSIN members are using rape and other forms of torture to force inmates to cooperate with them and that they "themselves become part of the torture machine" by snitching on other inmates or by signing false testimonies prepared by investigators.

Russian prosecutors said on October 5 that they had launched a preliminary investigation into the videos already released by Osechkin’s Gulagu.net, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov promised a "serious" probe if the incidents depicted in the clips turn out to be genuine.

One of the videos posted on the Vot-tak.tv website shows several people using a large stick to rape a naked man who is tied to a bed.

According to Osechkin, that video was shot in a Russian prison in February 2020.

The Mediazona website published three other videos purportedly showing inmates being tortured in a prison hospital in the city of Saratov.

According to Osechkin, Syarhey had access to videos stored in the prison's computers that were shot in several penitentiaries in the Vladimir, Saratov, and Irkutsk regions between 2018 and 2020.

Osechkin alleged that some 200 inmates have been tortured and raped by FSB and FSIN agents in these penitentiaries during that period, and that the videos he has obtained document the ill-treatment of 40 of them.

A spokesman for the Prosecutor-General's Office, Andrei Ivanov, told reporters on October 5 that all correctional facilities in Saratov will be checked as part of a preliminary investigation to see if inmates there were being abused.

A day later, on October 6, the FSIN said it had fired five senior prison officials, including the director of the prison where the alleged abuse took place and the head of the regional prison service.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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