British-Iranian Zaghari-Ratcliffe sentenced to a year in prison: lawyer

Tehran (AFP) –


British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, held in Iran since 2016, was jailed for a year and banned from leaving the country for a further 12 months, her lawyer said Monday.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, had appeared in court last month to face new charges of "propaganda against the system", a week after she finished a five-year sentence for plotting to overthrow the regime, accusations she strenuously denies.

She was put on trial for "participating in a rally outside the Iranian embassy in London in 2009 (and) was sentenced to one year in prison and a one year ban on leaving the country," her lawyer Hojjat Kermani told AFP.

"The verdict is still preliminary, and we are appealing within the legal deadline of 20 days from today," he said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was initially detained while on holiday in 2016, when she was working as a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency and data firm's philanthropic wing.

She has been under house arrest in recent months and had her ankle tag removed, giving her more freedom of movement and allowing her to visit relatives in Tehran.

Kermani added he hoped she would "be acquitted on appeal".

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case has fuelled diplomatic tensions between Tehran and London, and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday hit out at reports of the sentencing.

"I don't think it's right at all that Nazanin should be sentenced to any more time in jail... I think it's wrong that she's there in the first place," he said, adding that London was working "very hard" to secure her release.

- British anger -

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the decision "totally inhumane and wholly unjustified".

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's MP in London, Tulip Siddiq, said she was being "abusively used as a bargaining chip".

While in prison, she suffered from a lack of hygiene and even contemplated suicide, according to her husband Richard Ratcliffe.

Both Richard Ratcliffe, and media in London and Tehran, have drawn a possible link between Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention and a British debt dating back more than 40 years for military tanks paid for by the shah.

When the shah was ousted in 1979, Britain refused to deliver the tanks to the new Islamic Republic and London has admitted it owes Iran several hundred million pounds.

Both countries have denied any link between that issue and Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case.

Richard Ratcliffe told AFP last month that he had hoped if his wife were convicted again, she could serve the time under house arrest at her parents' house in Tehran.

"If she got put back in prison, regardless of the time, that's a really bad sign," he said, noting that it would clearly indicate negotiations between the British and Iranian governments had "fallen down".

Tehran, which does not recognise dual citizenship, has consistently denied British consular access to Zaghari-Ratcliffe while she was in prison.

Last month legal campaign group Redress handed a report to the British government which it said "confirms the severity of the ill-treatment that Nazanin has suffered".

The organisation said it "considers that Iran's treatment of Nazanin constitutes torture".