TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A British-Iranian woman serving a five-year sentence in an Iranian prison on charges of espionage has completed her sentence on Sunday, her lawyer said, despite a new trial and that he could not return home to London.
The turning point in the case of Nazani Zag Aghari-Ratcliffe over the years has sparked international outrage and strained already pregnant diplomatic ties between Britain and Iran.
Although Zag Agar-Ratcliffe has completed his entire sentence, been allowed to remove his ankle monitor, and leave house arrest, his future remains uncertain amid rising long-running debt disputes between Britain and Iran and regional tensions.
“It seems to me that they have applied one block as they removed the other. We are very clearly in the middle of this state game of chess,” said her husband, Richard Ratcliffe.
Iranian state media reported that he had been summoned to court on March 14 on new vague charges, including “propaganda”, which were first announced last fall. The trial was postponed indefinitely, raising hopes that he would return home when his sentence expired. Authorities released him last March amid rising coronavirus outbreaks, and he has remained in custody at his parents’ home in Tehran since that day.
Zag Agar-Ratcliffe, 43, was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, a charge he, his supporters and human rights groups vehemently deny. He was taken to the airport with his young daughter after visiting family while vacationing in the Tehran capital in 2016. At the time, he was working for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a news agency charity.
The United Nations has described his arrest as “arbitrary” and said his treatment, including detention and deprivation of medical care, could amount to torture.
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris John Onson has welcomed the removal of the Hagar-Ratcliffe ankle park, but called for his return home.
“His continued imprisonment remains unacceptable,” he said on Twitter. “He must be released permanently in order to be able to return to his family in the United Kingdom. We continue to do our best to achieve that.”
The latest setback in the Set Agha-Ratcliffe case came as Britain and Iran negotiated a 400 400m ($ 530m) debt owed by London to Iran in 1979, which Shah Reza Mohammad Pahlavi owed to Iran for former tanks. Shah left the throne, and the Islamic Revolution installed the spiritually controlled system that exists today.
Ratcliffe, who has been campaigning for his wife’s release for years, said Iran was holding Ha Aghari-Ratcliffe “hostage” in the dispute. Authorities in London և Tehran deny that the ha aghari-Ratcliffe case is linked to a redemption deal. But in 2016, an exchange of prisoners who released four American citizens saw the United States pay the same amount to Iran on the same day they were released.
His case is against the escalation of tensions over Iran’s broken nuclear deal with world powers. After former US President Donald Trump unilaterally rejected the deal in 2018, Iran, among other actions, is accelerating the breach of the treaty by enriching the permissible amount of uranium. Tehran is seeking to pressure other signatories to the deal, including Britain, to help compensate for the economic damage caused by US sanctions.
As for ha agari-Ratcliffe, what will happen in court next weekend remains unclear. His family and supporters fear the worst.
“We do not know how to interpret the summoned it. Will they just finish all the paperwork, get rid of it, give back the passport? Or is it that they are going to hit him with that second sentence? ” His mother-in-law, Rebecca Ratcliffe, told Sky News in the UK:
Uncertainty means “there are a few more sleepless nights ahead,” he added.
Criticized by the United Nations as an “emerging pattern”, Iran has frequently arrested dual nationals in recent years, often using their cases as a bargaining chip or influence in negotiations with the West, which Tehran denies.
Several other dual nationals, including at least one other British citizen, three Americans, remain in prison. Iran refuses to recognize dual citizenship, so detainees like deta agar-Ratcliffe cannot receive consular assistance.
At the same time, Ank Agari-Ratcliffe, having detached his ankle for the first time, spent the afternoon with his grandmother, who was imprisoned by another British-Iranian family.
“It’s a mixed day for us,” Ratcliffe added. “He’s having a nice afternoon, he’s turned off the phone, he’s not thinking about the rest.”
Associated Press writer Calvin Chan contributed from London. DeBre reports from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.