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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe loses appeal on second Iran jail term without court hearing

Supporters say the British-Iranian aid worker could be returned to prison at any time and urge UK prime minister to intervene
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard (right) and daughter Gabriella protest her detention in London on 23 September 2021 (AFP)

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British citizen detained in Iran, has lost an appeal against a second jail term in Iran, her supporters said on Saturday.

The 43-year-old British-Iranian aid worker was sentenced to five years in jail in 2016 over charges of plotting against the Iranian government. In March, after serving her initial sentence, she was sentenced to another year in jail and a subsequent year-long travel ban.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe has said repeatedly that his wife's case is based on bogus charges and she is being used as a bargaining chip in the debt dispute between Tehran and London.

"The appeals court has approved the lower court's verdict without holding a hearing," her lawyer, Hojjat Kermani, told the Emtedad, a local news website, on Saturday.

So far there is no summons date for her return to prison, according to the #FreeNazanin Twitter account run by her supporters. It also said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had asked to speak with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“He invited the Iranian President to Glasgow next month for #COP26 - it is time for him to sit down with the Iranians and end this finally,” the account said.

Iran has not issued any official statement, following its usual practice.

Return to prison 'at any time'

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, who represents the constituency where Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband and daughter live, tweeted that she "could now be returned to prison at any time”.

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The MP also urged Johnson to "act now to #FreeNazanin”.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss also called for the aid worker to be released. 

"Iran's decision to proceed with these baseless charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an appalling continuation of the cruel ordeal she is going through," Truss said in a statement.

"Instead of threatening to return Nazanin to prison Iran must release her permanently."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of a number of western passport holders being held by Iran in what rights groups condemn as a policy of hostage-taking aimed at winning concessions from foreign powers. 

The project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency and data firm's philanthropic arm, was arrested in April 2016 while visiting family.

She was convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime, a charge she strenuously denied. 

Held 'unlawfully'

She completed that sentence in March this year, only to be slapped with a fresh one-year jail term for "propaganda against the system”.

The UK's then-foreign minister Dominic Raab condemned the second sentence, saying that Iran's treatment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe amounted to torture and she was being held unlawfully.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been living with her parents in Tehran while her appeal was underway, barred from leaving the country.

Her husband and daughter last month took part in a protest organised by Amnesty International near the Houses of Parliament to mark her 2,000th day in detention.