A senior Iranian judiciary official has dismissed reports that a detained British-Iranian aid worker sentenced to five years in jail for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government could be released soon.
Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, who has denied the charges, has been in prison since she was arrested in April 2016 while visiting her family in Iran with her toddler daughter. She was convicted in September 2016.
"Nazanin Zaghari has two cases -- in the first, she has been convicted, but the second has yet to go to court and there is no verdict," Gholamhossein Esmaili, who heads of the justice department in Tehran Province, told the judiciary's Mizanonline news service on December 22.
A day earlier, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said that her lawyer recently discovered that her case was classified as "eligible for early release" on the Iranian judiciary website. It had previously been classified as "closed."
A former employee of the BBC World Service Trust, Zaghari-Ratcliffe works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency. Both her family and Thomson Reuters say she was not visiting Iran in connection with her work when she was arrested.
Speaking to Mizanonline, Esmaili said there was no possibility the Thomson Reuters Foundation employee could be freed until she had been tried on additional charges filed last month of "spreading propaganda."
"The court can convict or acquit her. If she is convicted, we don't know what the sentence will be. So we don't know when she will be able to be released," he said.
In another interview with the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Esmaili said that "when a decision is made, it will be announced by the Islamic republic's judiciary or through diplomatic channels."
Esmaili also dismissed reports of a swap deal without saying which reports he was referring to.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is among more than a dozen dual nationals jailed in Iran in recent months.
With reporting by Mizanonline, Tasnim, AFP, and Reuters