Thursday 29 September 2016

Iranian-British woman faces alleged coup charge in Iran

Published 15/06/2016 | 14:36

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on April 3 at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport (Family handout/PA)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on April 3 at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport (Family handout/PA)

An Iranian-British woman held in Iran is facing charges accusing her of trying to cause a "soft toppling" of the Islamic Republic's government, reports said.

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Iran's state-run news agency IRNA's report on Wednesday marks the first official acknowledgement of the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency.

IRNA said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on April 3 at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport and later transferred to a prison in the country's Kerman province.

A call to the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London was not immediately answered on Wednesday.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe joins a growing number of dual Iranian citizens detained in the wake of the country's nuclear deal with world powers.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained while trying to fly out of the country with her toddler daughter, Gabriella, who remains in Iran with family after authorities seized her passport, according to Amnesty International.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, had participated in the "design and implementation of cyber and media projects to cause the soft toppling of the Islamic Republic". It did not elaborate. Iran's mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iranian law does not recognise dual citizenship. Iran's government harbours deep suspicions about both Britain and the United States, linked in part to their role in a 1953 coup. A billboard put up in Tehran before February's parliamentary election showed the face of the Queen replaced with that of a camel, warning voters about "foreign meddling".

The Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force charged with protecting the Islamic Republic, increasingly has targeted those with Western ties since the nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

A prisoner swap in January between Iran and the US freed Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans.

But at least two Iranian-Americans, businessman Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, remain in detention. Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese internet freedom advocate who is a US permanent resident and has done work for the American government , is held as well. The whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorised CIA mission, are still unknown.

Also held is Homa Hoodfar, a Canadian-Iranian retired university professor who had been on a trip to see family and do research after the death of her husband, according to her family.

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