Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has accused Tehran of practicing hostage diplomacy, saying that his wife has become a bargaining chip between the UK and Iran.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ratcliffe revealed that Iran is seeking to prevent his wife's release at the end of her sentence next March, or at least to threaten it.
Authorities in Tehran are charging Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual national, with a new wave of accusations to justify holding her in detention for additional time.
In early November, she appeared before a judge to defend herself against “charges of spreading propaganda against the regime,” but the trial was adjourned before Zaghari-Ratcliffe could present her defense and without a clear scheduling of the next hearing.
“It is formally a new charge but the same file as used against her last time. So it is double jeopardy,” he explained to Asharq Al-Awsat.
“We’ve seen other cases where a new file of accusations is brought in midway through, particularly when the case is suddenly adjourned as happened to us last hearing, so we will only know what they convict her of when they tell us,” he said.
Ratcliffe, who has been leading a fierce campaign for his wife's release for four years, considered that the purpose of the new case “is to prevent her release at the end of her sentence next March, or at least to threaten it.”
“The court process is just a veneer to provide a legal framework for hostage taking and justify holding her for as long as they want.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit.
She was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment.
Gabriella, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s daughter, was reunited with her father in the UK on October 10, 2019.
As for Zaghari-Ratcliffe, she received a conditioned release from Evin prison in March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic but remains under house arrest.
Iranian authorities have told her she will return to Evin prison following the hearings, which have been delayed.