British-Iranian aid worker sentenced to jail for 'cooperation with BBC'

Iranian appeals court confirmed the five-year jail sentence for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

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The family of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been sentenced to five years in jail in Iran on undisclosed charges, said she has been accused by a Revolutionary Court of acting against national security by cooperating with the BBC.

Iran’s judiciary spokesman said on Sunday that Iranian appeals court confirmed the five-year jail sentence for her.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in early April as she tried to leave Iran after a visit with her two-year-old daughter.

Her family said in a statement that the appeal “was held in secret, in the presence of a large number of Revolutionary Guards”. Neither Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her lawyer had been allowed to tell the family what happened at her trial.

However, the family said that at the appeal hearing two new accusations have been raised against her: being the head of recruitment for the BBC Persian service, and knowingly being married to a British spy.

Iran’s judiciary was not immediately available for comment when Reuters attempted to contact officials. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the new accusations.

Speaking in response to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s jail sentence, Francesca Unsworth, director of the BBC World Service Group, said on Monday:

“Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has never worked for BBC Persian. She worked briefly for BBC Media Action, our international development charity, in a junior administrative capacity.”

Unsworth called on Iranian authorities to urgently re-examine the case.

Iranian authorities have accused the BBC Persian service of trying to overthrow the Islamic Republic, especially after its coverage of widespread protests in Iran over disputed election results in 2009. BBC has denied the allegations.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a London-based charity that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

“The lack of justice in Nazanin’s case continues to be a stain on Iran,” Richard Ratcliffe, husband of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said in a statement.

“It is a needless waste of a mother and child’s life for their own political bargains and economic interests.”

Several Iranian dual nationals from the United States, Britain, Canada and France have been detained in the past year and are being kept behind bars on charges including espionage and collaborating with hostile governments.

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