Iran court brings new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, sparking UK outrage

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is pictured with her daughter during a temporary release from jail in 2018.

(CNN)The British government has condemned an Iranian court's decision to bring new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian charity worker jailed on espionage charges four years ago.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016, accused by the Iranian government of working with organizations allegedly attempting to overthrow the regime -- a claim that she and her family have consistently denied. She had been visiting her parents with her young daughter from their home in the UK.
Iranian state media reported Tuesday that Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her defense lawyer were summoned to the "Branch 15" court to face new charges, but provided no further details. It remains unclear what the new charge or charges might entail.
    "Iran bringing new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is indefensible and unacceptable," a spokesperson for the UK's Foreign Office said in a statement.
    British lawmaker Tulip Siddiq, who represents the constituency where the family live in Britain, said Tuesday that the new trial would take place 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.
    Zaghari-Ratcliffe was reportedly moved from prison to house arrest during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in Iran and is currently approaching the end of the original five-year sentence.
    "We have been consistently clear that she must not be returned to prison," the Foreign Office spokesperson said.
    Richard Ratcliffe accused Iran of holding his wife as a  hostage.

    'Hostage diplomacy'

    The charity worker's husband Richard Ratcliffe has urged the British government to do everything to protect his wife, who he says is being held "hostage" by the regime.
    In an extensive statement released Tuesday about his wife's legal status and developments over the last few days, he said: "While we felt close to release these past few months, yesterday Nazanin was taken to the Revolutionary Court for a reopened second court case. Her trial will be on Sunday. The case is illegal under Iranian law, as is the fact Nazanin was not already released back in March.
    "It has become increasingly clear the past months that Nazanin is a hostage," he said. "It is important that the UK government does everything to protect her and others as Iran's hostage diplomacy continues to escalate.
      "This starts with the British Embassy insisting it is able to attend Nazanin's trial on Sunday, and that the UK's diplomatic protection is treated with respect."
      He added: "There is only so much abuse one person can take. Nazanin was asking today has she not had her share?"