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British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to face new charge and trial

Amnesty International says Iranian authorities are playing 'cruel political games' with aid worker who is serving five years for espionage, a charge she denies
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was brought before a revolutionary court in the country's capital Tehran on 8 September (AFP/File photo)

British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been told she will face another trial as she nears the completion of her five-year sentence over espionage.

Iranian state media said she was brought before a revolutionary court in the country's capital Tehran on Tuesday morning.

"Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court summoned Nazanin Zaghari and her designated lawyer this morning and informed her of a new indictment," state television reported, citing an unnamed official.

The new charge against Zaghari-Ratcliffe was also confirmed by her British MP, Tulip Siddiq, who said she had been taken to court and would face another trial on Sunday.

"I've been in touch with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and can confirm that she was taken to court this morning and told she will face another trial on Sunday," Siddiq said.

"I know many people are concerned about her welfare and I'll keep everyone updated when we have more information."

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Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is serving a five-year sentence in Iran for espionage, a charge she has consistently denied. She was arrested in 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking her then 22-month-old daughter to visit family.

Her current charges expire in roughly six months.

She was moved from prison to house arrest in March over fears of the spread of the coronavirus in Tehran's detention system.

The new charge comes as her lawyers criticised the UK government for deliberately delaying taking action to secure the aid worker's release to avoid offending US President Donald Trump.

Last week, the UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, acknowledged for the first time - in a letter to Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family - that the government was working to repay a debt to Tehran that could secure her release.

In 1971, the International Military Services (IMS), a government agency, signed contracts to sell more than 1,500 Chieftain tanks and armoured vehicles to the Shah of Iran.

The military equipment remained undelivered for years, and the contracts were eventually cancelled after the shah was deposed in the 1979 revolution. Iran has demanded that the $525m be returned after already having paid for the tanks.

"Nazanin has already been convicted once after a deeply unfair trial, and there should be no question of her being put through that ordeal again," Amnesty International's UK director Kate Allen said.

"There have always been concerns that the Iranian authorities were playing cruel political games with Nazanin, and that looks to be the case here. 

"As a matter of absolute urgency the UK government should make fresh representations on Nazanin's behalf, seeking to have any suggestion of a second trial removed."