British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces a new charge, Iran state TV has reported, citing an official.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker from north London, was arrested in April 2016 while visiting her parents on holiday.
She has been incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since being convicted of plotting to overthrow the government, a charge she totally denies.
The new charges come after Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family linked her detention to Iran’s negotiations with the British government over a £400 million settlement held by London, a payment the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi made for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered.
Tehran has denied that her detention was linked to the negotiations.
A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “Iran bringing new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is indefensible and unacceptable. We have been consistently clear that she must not be returned to prison.”
Responding to news of the additional charge against Zaghari-Ratcliffe Amnesty International UK’s director, Kate Allen, said: “If confirmed, this would be our worst fears come true.
“This will be a terrible blow for her, her family and for her many supporters and well-wishers. Nazanin has already been convicted once after a deeply unfair trial, and there should be no question of her being put through that ordeal again.
“There have always been concerns that the Iranian authorities were playing cruel political games with Nazanin, and that looks to be the case here.
“As a matter of absolute urgency the UK Government should make fresh representations on Nazanin’s behalf, seeking to have any suggestion of a second trial removed.”
Allen called upon government ministers to “step up efforts” to ensure the the former charity worker’s full and unconditional release from her detention in Tehran, and her safe return to her family in Britain.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyers had asked the defence secretary for a meeting and called on the government to stand up to Iran for its “abusive treatment” of the jailed mother-of-one.
The lawyers want to meet Ben Wallace and his legal advisers to discuss the approach the British government is taking on the issue of debt owed to Iran.
In a letter to Wallace, sent last month, lawyers outline “grave concerns” about the UK’s “failure” to pay up.
“This failure continues to blight UK-Iranian relations and remains an intractable obstacle to Nazanin’s long-overdue release,” the letter said.
Lawyers also point out to Wallace that they still have not received a proper response to a letter they sent to him almost a year ago.
“We wrote to you on this subject on 6 September 2019, but have yet to receive any substantive response, notwithstanding an indication that a response would be forthcoming,” lawyers said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard described the lack of response as “an astonishing lack of accountability”, adding that there has yet to be a response to the latest letter.
He has appealed to UK officials to insist on attending her second trial when it begins in Tehran on Sunday.
Insisting his wife is being held as leverage against the UK debt owed to Iran, Ratcliffe has urged British officials to do “everything to protect her and others” against Iran’s “hostage diplomacy”.
“It has become increasingly clear the past months that Nazanin is a hostage, held as leverage against a UK debt. It is important that the UK government does everything to protect her and others as Iran’s hostage diplomacy continues to escalate.
“This starts with the British Embassy insisting it is able to attend Nazanin’s trial on Sunday, and that the UK’s diplomatic protection is treated with respect.”