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British-Iranian Woman Fears Return To Prison In Iran After Extra Year Added To Sentence


Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and their daughter Gabriella protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London. (file photo)

The husband of a British-Iranian woman says his wife is “traumatized” by the possibility that she could be sent back to prison in Iran after an Iranian appeals court upheld a ruling that adds another year to her sentence.

Richard Ratcliffe said concerns have been raised that his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, may now be sent back to prison, telling the BBC on October 16 that his wife is "waiting for the call to summon her back" and said that she was "traumatized at the thought of having to go back to jail."

Ratcliffe, who has been campaigning for his wife's return to Britain since her original incarceration in 2016, said he was surprised to learn of the ruling upholding the additional year to her sentence.

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 had been in touch with her family about the decision.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was first jailed in 2016 after being accused of plotting against the regime -- charges that she, her supporters, and rights groups deny.

She was sentenced to another year of confinement in April on charges of "spreading propaganda against the system” while participating in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.

She spent the final year of her initial sentence on parole at her parents' home in Tehran as Iran temporarily released thousands of inmates in response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The initial court ruling against Zaghari-Ratcliffe was five years plus a one-year travel ban abroad. The extra year added to her sentence means Zaghari-Ratcliffe cannot leave Iran to join her husband and 7-year-old daughter in London for nearly two more years.

Ratcliffe said he held a strategy meeting with the British Foreign Office on October 15 anticipating something would happen to his wife's appeal during the autumn.

He said he had urged the government to take quicker action to get his wife out and criticized it for failing to deal with problems until they become crises.

“This is Iran threatening a crisis. One hopes that the government takes it seriously," he said.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement on October 16 that Iran’s decision to proceed with the "baseless" charges against Zaghari-Ratcliffe was an "appalling continuation of the cruel ordeal she is going through."

She added: "We are doing all we can to help Nazanin get home to her young daughter and family and I will continue to press Iran on this point."

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

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

With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and the BBC
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