Iranian-British woman held in Iran faces coup charge

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An Iranian-British woman detained in Iran faces charges of trying to cause the “soft toppling” of the government, a state-run news agency reported Wednesday, the latest in a series of cases in which dual nationals have been detained since last year’s nuclear deal with world powers.

IRNA’s report marks the first official acknowledgment of the detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency.

The foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though Reuters previously reported that the organization does not operate in Iran.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard detained Zaghari-Ratcliffe on April 3 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport and later transferred her to a prison in the country’s Kerman province, according to the IRNA report. It said she had phone calls and met regularly with her family.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained while trying to fly out of the country with her toddler daughter, Gabriella, who remains in Iran with family after authorities seized her passport, according to Amnesty International.

The Guard said Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, had participated in the “design and implementation of cyber and media projects to cause the soft toppling of the Islamic Republic.” It did not elaborate. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iranian law does not recognize dual citizenship. Iran’s government harbors deep suspicions about both Britain and the United States, linked in part to their role in a 1953 coup. A billboard put up in Tehran before February’s parliamentary election showed the face of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II replaced with that of a camel, warning voters about “foreign meddling.”

The Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force charged with protecting the Islamic Republic, increasingly has targeted those with Western ties since the nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

A prisoner swap in January between Iran and the U.S. freed Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans.

But at least two Iranian-Americans, businessman Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Baquer Namazi, remain in detention. Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese internet freedom advocate who is a U.S. permanent resident and has done work for the American government , is held as well. The whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, are still unknown.

Also held is Homa Hoodfar, a Canadian-Iranian retired university professor who had been on a trip to see family and do research after the death of her husband, according to her family.


Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.