British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years on espionage charges
A British-Iranian woman accused of taking part in anti-regime protests in 2009 has been sentenced to five years in prison, a news website affiliated with the judiciary reported Sunday.
Mizan Online quoted a prosecutor as saying the sentence against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been finalised. The prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, did not elaborate.
The public prosecutor claims that the 37-year-old was working for Western intelligence agencies and was planning to infiltrate the Iranian political system.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency's charitable arm, was detained in April 2016 while trying to leave the country with her toddler daughter, who remains in Iran with family after authorities seized her passport.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, confirmed that an appeals court upheld her sentence, for the charge of "acting against national security". The family has denied she violated any laws.
"They are not backing down and are continuing to use her as a bargaining chip," he told the Press Association after learning the verdict.
"They have been fairly tough and uncompromising all the way through, so I shouldn't be too surprised that they continue to make outrageous claims."
He added that among the accusations against his wife is that she was head of recruitment for BBC Farsi at the time of its founding and in 2009.
Monique Villa, the CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation denied this in a statement.
"Nazanin has never worked for BBC Farsi. She served in a junior capacity as a Training Assistant for BBC Media Action, the charitable arm of the BBC, from 2009 to 2010," said Villa.
Iranian authorities have arrested a number of dual citizens on security-related charges since the Islamic Republic reached a nuclear accord with world powers in 2015, in a crackdown led by hard-liners in the security services and the judiciary.
Iran does not recognise dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings before Iran's Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.British Prime Minister Theresa May raised concerns about Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case during a phone call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last August.