ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns new charges brought against British-Iranian media charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Nazanin has already served 19 months of a five year sentence in Evin Prison, Tehran, on previous, undisclosed charges related to ‘national security’. The new charges, which carry a maximum further 16 year sentence, were brought only a month prior to her being eligible for early release. ARTICLE 19 has previously called for Nazanin’s release from arbitrary detention and for the Iranian government and courts to uphold the right to a fair trial. We once again urge the Iranian government to bring an end to Nazanin’s detention, and that of other human rights defenders and journalists detained for peacefully carrying out their legitimate work. The UK government must also do more to secure her release as a UK citizen.
The two new charges, brought by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, are related to Nazanin’s work with charitable media organisations, including BBC Media Action and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, where she was a Programme Coordinator leading journalism and media programmes around the world prior to her arrest in April 2016. They also relate to her alleged participation in a peaceful protest at the Iranian Embassy in London – apparently discovered through a photo found in her private email account.
Nazanin was denied access to her lawyer during the hearing in which the charges were brought. It is unclear why the charges would be brought now, especially given that they relate to her work before being imprisoned. The charges for which she has served prison time for were never made clear to her or her family, but supposedly related to her efforts to ‘infiltrate’ Iran, despite the fact that the Thomson Reuters Foundation has never operated in the country or focused on it.
Working with charitable media organisations should not be considered a crime. The Revolutionary Guard’s suggestion that Nazanin’s work promoting independent media around the world and developing free expression is an effort to overthrow the Iranian regime is clearly unfounded. Their continued efforts to detain Nazanin constitute violations of her right to a fair trial, to be free from arbitrary detention and to freedom of expression, in direct violation of Iran’s international obligations under Articles 9, 14 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Nazanin is a dual UK and Iranian citizen, however under Iranian law she is viewed as an Iranian national and therefore denied UK consular assistance. Nazanin’s three year old daughter was detained with her at the time of her arrest, and has since been living with Nazanin’s parents in Iran, and had her UK documents confiscated. She is only able to see Nazanin during prison visiting hours, and cannot leave the country.
“These further charges represent a gross violation of Nazanin’s right to a fair trial and due process. Nazanin has already served nearly two years in prison on vague ‘national security’ charges, purely for her legitimate charitable work. Bringing these latest charges, at the last minute before her eligibility for release, is a cruel attempt by authorities to silence and intimidate media workers and others, simply for carrying out their work” said Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
The Iranian authorities must immediately drop these new charges and enable Nazanin’s release from prison, and end its imprisonment of media workers and human rights defenders. We further call on the UK government to speak out on Nazanin’s behalf and condemn the arbitrary actions of the Iranian authorities against a dual UK-Iranian citizen.