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Charity worker imprisoned in Iran loses appeal against her sentence

A British-Iranian woman imprisoned in Tehran has had an appeal against her sentence rejected - as two new accusations come to light.

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, has been jailed for five years for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian government.

The exact details of the charges have not been made public, but her husband Richard Ratcliffe said he does not expect these to ever be clarified because "they know it is not true".

Speaking after he became aware of the appeal decision, with her sentence upheld, the 42-year-old told the Press Association: "There was always a chance it was going to go bad, and it has done.

"I was kind of prepared for the worst, but I was trying not to worry about it. It remains a travesty, it is complete nonsense.

"They are not backing down and are continuing to use her as a bargaining chip."

It is understood during the appeal hearing two new accusations from the Kerman branch of the Revolutionary Guard were raised against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

These include the claim she was knowingly married to a British spy, and that she acted as the head of recruitment for BBC Farsi at the time of its founding and in 2009.

The Free Nazanin Campaign said that in fact, she was employed as a project assistant for BBC Media Action and has never worked for BBC Farsi.

Mr Ratcliffe said the allegations are "plainly untrue".

Her appeal was presided over by three judges, with her family learning of the verdict, announced on Sunday, through media reports.

Mr Ratcliffe said he was "hopeful" when government minister Tobias Ellwood visited Iran last week, raising the cases of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other dual UK nationals being held.

"The fact that it was kept secret and the fact that the ruling had all the Revolutionary Guards there didn't feel like a very good sign," Mr Ratcliffe said.

"Then the longer it went on, it felt like there was clearly some sort of internal fighting happening.

"Then the fact the minister went out there and it seemed to go well... I allowed myself to be a bit more positive.

"They have been fairly tough and uncompromising all the way through, so I shouldn't be too surprised that they continue to make outrageous claims."

The Thomson Reuters Foundation employee was jailed for five years last September and appealed against her prison sentence earlier in January.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Hampstead, north-west London, was arrested at Tehran Airport in April while she was with her daughter Gabriella, and later jailed.

She has served 294 days behind bars so far, two months of which, Mr Ratcliffe said, have been in solitary confinement.

Their daughter is also in the country and being looked after by family.

He said there is possibly another legal route they can try, but that is a "long way off" and that they will now create a longer term plan and carry on "campaigning in earnest".

Mr Ratcliffe said the Iranian government has taken Gabriella's passport, and it has not been given back despite a request from the British Government.

He is also trying to get a visa number so documents can be eventually obtained to visit Gabriella and his wife, so they can discuss what to do with their daughter.

Mr Ratcliffe said: "It is no way to toy with people's lives. There is no way we will let it rest. Nazanin will not be forgotten."

Monique Villa, chief executive of Thomson Reuters Foundation said she is "outraged by this new mockery of justice", and reiterated Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe never worked for BBC Farsi and that her husband "is not a spy but a reputable accountant".

She added: "I am fully convinced of Nazanin's innocence, and would like to reiterate my total support to her and her family in these terrible circumstances they are living through.

"I call on the Iranian authorities to release her as soon as possible, so that she may be reunited with her family.

"It has now been over nine months since Nazanin's imprisonment. She was arrested while on a holiday to visit her parents in Iran with her two-year old daughter Gabriella.

"We continue to work very closely with Nazanin's husband, the UK Foreign Office and the British authorities to secure her speedy release."

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