'Groundless' trial for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe postponed

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s trial in Iran has been postponed with no new date set, with a charity accusing the country of playing “cruel political games”.

The 42-year-old mother-of-one has been detained in the country since 2016, when she was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations – which she denies – of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe previously said Sunday’s trial would hear charges of spreading anti-government propaganda, in a case officials dropped in December 2017 after a visit from the then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, but reopened in May 2018.

But on Sunday Mr Ratcliffe confirmed the trial has been postponed with Amnesty International UK saying the British Government should make it their “absolute priority” to get her home for Christmas.

Archive photo of Nazanin with her daughter Gabriella (PA)

MP Tulip Siddiq said: “This morning I spoke to Nazanin’s husband Richard.

“Her ‘trial’ has been postponed and will not happen today.

“She is relieved, frustrated, stressed and angry.

“Once again she’s being treated like a bargaining chip.”

Gabriella with her father (Reuters)

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokeswoman said: “We welcome the deferral of this groundless court hearing, and call on Iran to make Nazanin’s release permanent so that she can return to her family in the UK.”

This week Mr Johnson described the decision to bring new charges as “indefensible and unacceptable”, according to Downing Street.

Mr Ratcliffe has said the new charges against his wife were further evidence she is being held for “political leverage” amid a multimillion-pound dispute between Britain and Iran.

Having been moved to house arrest in March, when thousands of prisoners were granted clemency and released from Iranian jails amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to court on Tuesday only months from her expected release date and told she would face a second trial.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: “Nazanin has already been unjustly convicted once after a deeply unfair trial.

“It is a nonsense that she should ever have even faced a second court date.

“It appears the Iranian authorities are playing cruel political games with Nazanin. The situation has gone on long enough.

“Nazanin has continued to suffer in Iran away from her husband and young daughter.

“The UK government has had four and a half years to secure her unconditional release and has failed to do so.

“Securing Nazanin’s release should be an absolute priority. As a matter of urgency, ministers now need to step up their efforts to get Nazanin home in time for Christmas and provide a clear plan on how they will do this.”

It has been claimed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in order to force the UK into settling a multimillion pound dispute with Iran.

The debt dates back to the 1970s when the then-shah of Iran paid the UK £400 million for 1,500 Chieftain tanks.

After he was toppled in 1979, Britain refused to deliver the tanks to the new Islamic Republic and kept the money, despite British courts accepting it should be repaid.