UK lawmaker: Trial of woman held in Iran since 2016 deferred

FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national detained in Iran . A British lawmaker says a new trial that a woman with dual nationality expected to face in Iran on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 has been postponed, with no new date arranged. (Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe via AP, File) (Uncredited)

LONDON – A British lawmaker says a new trial that a woman with dual nationality expected to face in Iran on Sunday has been postponed, with no new date arranged.

After speaking to dual-national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, Parliament member Tulip Siddiq said in a tweet that the “trial” has been postponed.

Siddiq added that Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, is “relieved, frustrated, stressed and angry" and that once again the dual British-Iranian national is “being treated like a bargaining chip.”

Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's local lawmaker, said more information will follow later Sunday.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since 2016, when she was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government. She strenuously denies the allegations.

She was arrested during a family holiday with her young daughter. Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency.

Her husband had previously said that Sunday’s trial related to charges of spreading anti-government propaganda, in a case officials dropped in December 2017, after a visit from Britain's then-foreign secretary and now prime minister, Boris Johnson.

Having been moved to house arrest in March, when thousands of prisoners were released during the coronavirus outbreak, Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to court on Tuesday, months before her expected release date. That stoked fears she could be forced to return to prison.

Amnesty International U.K. accused Iranian authorities of “playing cruel political games” with Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and called on the British government to make it their “absolute priority” to get her home for Christmas.

A spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office welcomed the deferral of “this groundless court hearing” and called on Iran to "make Nazanin’s release permanent so that she can return to her family in the U.K.”

Ratcliffe has said the new charges against his wife were further evidence she is being held for “political leverage” over a multimillion-pound dispute between Britain and Iran over tank sales in the 1970s.

The new indictment came as Britain and Iran negotiate the release of some 400 million pounds ($530 million) held by London, a payment the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi made for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered.

The shah abandoned the throne in 1979 and the Islamic Revolution soon installed the clerically overseen system that endures today.