LONDON — A British-Iranian woman held for years in Iran after being detained in 2016 while visiting family is set to face additional charges, Iranian state television announced on Tuesday, a move that could deepen the diplomatic impasse in the case.
The woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, was sentenced to five years in prison after the Iranian authorities accused her of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government — charges that she, her family and international rights groups have long denied.
According to an Iranian state television website, which cited an unnamed official, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her lawyer were informed this morning of a “new indictment.” No further details about the additional charges were mentioned.
Tulip Siddiq, a member of the British Parliament who represents Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s area of London, posted on Twitter that she had been in touch with the family and “can confirm that she was taken to court this morning and told she will face another trial on Sunday.”
Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had been working as a program director at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was traveling home to Britain after a visit with her family in Tehran in April 2016 when she was detained at the airport. She was eventually put on trial on sedition charges and was jailed in the notorious Evin Prison in the Iranian capital.
She spent a prolonged time in solitary confinement and her mental and physical health have at times deteriorated, her family have said. Last year, her daughter, Gabriella, now 6, was reunited with her father, Richard Ratcliffe, in Britain after years living with her mother’s family in Iran.
Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s years of detention have strained an already fraught diplomatic relationship between Britain and Iran. Mr. Ratcliffe, her husband, who has been an outspoken advocate for her release, has said that he believes his wife is being used as collateral in a decades-old dispute over a debt owed to Iran by Britain for the nondelivery of an order of tanks in the 1970s.
This week, Ben Wallace, the British defense secretary, acknowledged the debt, worth up to $530 million, in a letter to the family, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper, which quoted him as saying that the government was trying to resolve the issue.
Iran has prosecuted several other dual citizens and foreign visitors on national security or espionage charges in recent years. Rights groups say the country is effectively using those detained as bargaining chips in negotiations with other nations.
In recent months, Iran had begun to ease some of the restrictions on Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She was released to her family home on furlough in March as the coronavirus ravaged the prison where she was being held, fueling hope that she could be granted clemency and return to Britain.
That temporary respite has been extended several times, but Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still not allowed to leave Iran.