British charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces return to Iranian jail

The family of the British-Iranian national say she has been held since 2016 as a hostage on trumped-up charges

FILE PHOTO: Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen in an undated photograph handed out by her family. Ratcliffe Family Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
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Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been warned she will be returned to an Iranian jail next week after more than seven months on temporary release.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been summoned to court on Monday and told she must pack a bag in preparation for her to continue serving a five-year jail sentence, her family said.

She was detained in April 2016 as she prepared to head home to the UK with her young daughter after visiting family in Iran. She was convicted after a secret trial and Iranian media have claimed she was secretly working against the Iranian state.

Her family say she is among a group of foreign and dual-nationals being illegally held by Iran as pawns in a wider diplomatic game.

She was released in March as part of Iran’s efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 in its jails but has had to wear an electronic tag and remain at the home of her parents in Iran.

The summons follows a six-month delay in a UK court case over a £380 million arms deal debt owed to Iran. The family of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another British-Iranian dual national say their jail terms are inextricably linked to the debt that dates back to the 1970s.

The summons was delivered by two members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who visited her parents’ home. They also told her to pack a bag.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said: This is a cruel game of cat-and-mouse waiting. And yesterday it got crueller.

“We do think that if she’s not home for Christmas, there’s every chance this could run for years.”

The family has urged UK diplomats to attend her court hearing on Monday to highlight the importance of the case for relations between the two countries.

Charlie Loudon, from the charity REDRESS, which has acted as Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's legal adviser, said: “There is absolutely no coincidence that Nazanin has been summoned back to prison on the day that payment of the UK’s debt to Iran was once again delayed. Iran is holding Nazanin hostage and needs to be treated as such.”