Iran ambassador summoned for dressing down over Zaghari-Ratcliffe court threat

The Iranian ambassador has been told of the UK’s “grave concern” at the decision to bring fresh court proceedings against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after the diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office.

The family of the 42-year-old British-Iranian woman say she was told to go to attend court in Iran, where she is currently under house arrest, on Monday and told to prepare to return to prison following the hearing.

Thomas Drew, Foreign Office director general for the Middle East, on Thursday conveyed in a meeting with ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad the UK’s “grave concern” at the development and called for Iran to end her arbitrary detention, a department spokesman said.

“We have made it clear to the Iranian ambassador that his country’s treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is unjustified and unacceptable, and is causing an enormous amount of distress,” said the spokesman.

“Iran is further tarnishing its reputation through its actions towards Nazanin.

“It is time to end her arbitrary detention and that of the other dual British nationals it is holding.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since 2016 when she was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

This week Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned her treatment as “unacceptable and unjustified”.

His comments came after Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said the mother of one – who has been out of prison on furlough but under house arrest in Tehran since March due to the coronavirus crisis – was presented with a court summons on Tuesday.

She was told to pack a bag to bring to Monday’s hearing, as she would be returning to prison after the court appearance, Mr Ratcliffe added.

Only months from her expected release date, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to court in September and told she would face a second trial, but this was postponed at short notice with no future date set.

Her husband said it would hear charges of spreading anti-government propaganda, in a case officials dropped in December 2017, after a visit from the then foreign secretary Boris Johnson, but reopened in May 2018.