Iran court levels new, unspecified charge against Zaghari-Ratcliffe

In this file handout photo released by the Free Nazanin campaign on August 23, 2018 shows Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R) embracing her daughter Gabriella in Damavand following her release from prison for three days. (AFP)
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Updated 08 September 2020

Iran court levels new, unspecified charge against Zaghari-Ratcliffe

  • Her current 5-year sentence due to end in 2021
  • Husband accuses Tehran of using her as ‘chess piece’

LONDON: Detained British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will face a new, unspecified charge, according to Iranian state media.

She appeared before a court in Tehran on Tuesday and was told she would face another trial on Sunday, but was not informed of the charge against her.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 on charges of “plotting to topple the Iranian government,” which she has always denied, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Earlier this year, she was temporarily released from Evin prison, north of Tehran, to stay under house arrest with her parents as part of a furlough program to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded prison system.

Responding to the new charge, a spokeperson for the UK's foreign office said: “Iran bringing new charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is indefensible and unacceptable. We have been consistently clear that she must not be returned to prison.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband said she is being used as a “chess piece” by Tehran, and had previously expressed fears that she would face additional charges once her current sentence nears its end. 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe said authorities in Tehran had previously suggested that her release was conditional upon the UK’s repayment of a debt owed to pre-revolution Iran.

Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, told the BBC that such behavior by Tehran is commonplace.

“This is a practice. It’s a tool of statecraft. It’s part of Iran’s foreign policy to take people hostage who are innocent and then trade them later for some objective that they think advances their own objectives,” he said.

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

Updated 3 min 52 sec ago

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

  • The US has some 700 troops training Somali forces and carrying out raids against Al-Shabab militants
  • Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters

WASHINGTON: A CIA officer was killed in combat in Somalia in recent days, US media said Thursday without releasing details of how the agent died.
The veteran officer was a member of the CIA’s Special Activities Center, a paramilitary branch that carries out some of the US intelligence agency’s most dangerous tasks, The New York Times said.
The officer died of injuries sustained during an operation last week, according to CNN.
The CIA has not commented publicly on the death.
Washington has some 700 troops deployed in Somalia carrying out training of Somali forces and conducting counter-terrorism raids against the Al-Shabab militant group, which Washington designated a terrorist movement in 2008.
Earlier this month, Washington put on its terror blacklist the leader of an elite unit of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group blamed for a January attack in Kenya that killed three Americans.
Al-Shabab is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters who have vowed to overthrow the Somali government, which is supported by some 20,000 troops from the African Union.
The slain US operative was a veteran of special forces operations, having previously been a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, the Times reported.
The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing all US forces from Somalia by the time he leaves office in January, the paper added.
At the start of his term, Trump gave the Pentagon a freer hand to expand their operations, with both air strikes and ground raids, in the war-ravaged African country.
But an official report released in February said that “despite continued US air strikes in Somalia and US assistance to African partner forces, Al-Shabab appears to be a growing threat that aspires to strike the US homeland.”