Wednesday, 15 June 2016
A British mother who has been held in an Iranian jail since April was 'seeking to overthrow the regime', the country's elite Revolutionary Guard have claimed.
Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was accused of being 'involved in the soft overthrow of the Islamic republic through... her membership in foreign companies and institutions' - a charge her husband Richard Ratcliffe has dismissed as ridiculous.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who holds dual British-Iranian nationality, was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3 as she prepared to return to Britain with her two-year-old daughter after visiting family in Iran.
The Iranian authorities have now acknowledged they are holding Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured with her husband Richard Ratcliffe, and say she is accused of being 'involved in the soft overthrow' of the government
The Revolutionary Guards said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was 'identified and arrested after massive intelligence operations' as one of 'the heads of foreign-linked hostile networks', the Mizan news agency reported.
According to the Guards statement, she was alleged to have conducted 'various missions... leading her criminal activities under the direction of media and intelligence services of foreign governments'.
'Further investigations are being done and her case has been sent to Tehran for legal proceedings,' the statement added.
Iran does not acknowledge dual-citizenship so she will be charged as a citizen of the Middle Eastern country.
The statement - the first time the Iranian authorities have officially acknowledged they have detained Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe - also confirmed she is being kept in a furnished room in a prison in the southeastern city of Kerman, 621 miles away from her daughter Gabriella, whose passport has also been confiscated.
But Mr Ratcliffe, who last spoke to his wife on May 30 and has said she was held in solitary confinement for 45 days, scoffed at the charges levelled against her.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured with her husband Richard, is alleged to have conducted 'various missions'
'It's complete nonsense. It's taken them 70 days to come up with this, and it's still not clear what it means anyway,' he said.
Amnesty International UK has also hit out at the 'trumped-up' charge after weeks of 'appalling' treatment.
Individuals At Risk Campaigns Manager Felix Jakens said: 'This case has all the hallmarks of another spurious, trumped-up case designed to exert diplomatic pressure on a Western country - in this case Britain.
'Unless she is charged with an internationally-recognisable offence and tried in line with international fair trial standards, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe should be released as soon as possible and allowed to travel with her daughter back to the UK.'
Mr Ratcliffe, of London, said his father-in-law has appointed a lawyer, and he planned to reapproach the Iranian embassy.
Meanwhile, the couple's two-year-old daughter is still in Iran under the care of her grandparents. Mr Ratcliffe has been advised not to travel to the country.
Britain's Foreign Office said it has raised the case of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'repeatedly and at the highest levels' and will continue to do so at 'every available opportunity'.
'We have also been supporting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family since we were first made aware of her arrest. Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, has met personally with the family to reassure them that we will continue to do all we can on this case.'
Mr Ratcliffe has dismissed the charges as 'complete nonsense'. He was initially told it was a passport problem
Mr Ratcliffe was initially told a 'passport problem' was the cause of his wife being detained at Tehran airport, organised a rally outside the Iranian embassy in London on Friday demanding her release.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charitable organisation coordinating training programmes for journalists around the world.
'She has nothing to do with Iran in her work and the foundation doesn't work with Iran anyway,' foundation CEO Monique Villa said last week.