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Iran hits detained British-Iranian mother with new charges

When Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe learned she was going to court, the British-Iranian mother assumed she was about to be released from a Tehran prison.

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Charlotte Parsons (CNN)
(CNN) — When Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe learned she was going to court, the British-Iranian mother assumed she was about to be released from a Tehran prison.

Instead, the charity worker found herself facing several new charges -- and potentially another 16 years in jail -- after being held for more than a year on charges of plotting against the Iranian government, her husband said Tuesday.

"She thought she was having a heart attack," Richard Ratcliffe told CNN after speaking to his wife following Sunday's hearing. "She felt sick, her legs were paralyzed and she was crying uncontrollably."

An Iranian judge also ruled that her family would have to pay $8,000 in bail to prevent her from being moved to solitary confinement while awaiting trial, Ratcliffe says. No date has been set for the trial.

In April 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at the airport in Tehran on her way back to the UK from visiting family with her 22-month-old daughter.

The Iranian government accused her of working for a UK media network involved in activities against Iran. She was sentenced to five years in jail and her child was placed in the care of her parents.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was said to have been promised temporary release by the judiciary just two weeks ago, so she had written herself a note saying that she could soon be waking up somewhere else.

Instead, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) opened a new case against her, accusing her of having joined organizations specifically working to overthrow the regime. She was also charged with having attended a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in London.

The charges were published by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news service, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe had worked as a project manager. The foundation's chief executive described them as "a complete invention" and said she viewed Zaghari-Ratcliffe's treatment as a form of torture.

"The Thomson Reuters Foundation doesn't work in Iran and has no program or dealings with Iran," CEO Monique Villa said. "We are all shocked by this new development and ask the Iranian government to put an end to her torture and the British government to finally intervene to end the ordeal of this British national."

In September, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his hands were tied on the issue of dual nationals imprisoned in his country.

He told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he is legally forbidden from interfering with the judiciary, but added: "I do have my own sensitivities vis-à-vis this issue."

Iran's judiciary could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Richard Ratcliffe said the British government should be doing more to help, and that it should not be making business deals with the regime that has imprisoned his wife.

Last month, Britain and Iran unveiled a $600 million contract to develop a massive solar farm in Iran.

Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it has "repeatedly" brought up the charity worker's case with authorities in Iran and has expressed concern about her health.

"The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have both raised all our ongoing consular cases with their counterparts in Tehran, most recently at the UN General Assembly in September," the Foreign Office said in an email.

Ratcliffe said he believes the case against his wife is politically motivated, and could be a show of strength by the IRGC.

"It's hard to have a clear sense of what's going on. Different people are pushing in different directions and what we're seeing is a shadow play."

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