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Day 139 #FreeNazanin – Dressing Up Days

Richard Ratcliffe
London, United Kingdom

Aug 20, 2016 — Nazanin has gone to trial.

She is being tried in a special secret court called the Revolutionary Court. Her case merits being heard by powerful Judge Salavati. You can get the picture from google.

The trial happened suddenly on our anniversary. The hearing was almost 3 hours. Nazanin was allowed to meet her lawyer a couple of days before. There have been a series of meetings and materials presented to the Judge since, and a request for bail.

But much of the show remains secret.

The location of the court is not public. No one from the family was allowed to attend. And no one from here – our request from the Embassy for help with a visa for my dad and a lawyer from the Foundation to observe the trial is still awaiting instructions from Tehran.

Even after the case, the actual charges against Nazanin are hidden. For the Revolutionary Court, you defend yourself against suspicions. Formal charges appear only at the end. As an outsider, it can seem upside down, even retrofit - it risks making the crime fit the punishment.

Outside the court, the suspicions continue to dress Nazanin up. Last week’s trial build up was accompanied by articles in the Iranian media accusing Thomson Reuters Foundation of being involved in an ‘infiltration project’ directed by Western intelligence services – training journalists, promoting democracy around the world, and equating education with espionage. It was also in the media last week that accusations like that carry a minimum 10-years sentence.

Privately Nazanin was allowed to call me –mainly to break the news that she was going to trial. But also requesting I transmit a couple of messages.

That Nazanin’s interrogators were angered by a miscommunication. They wanted her/me to clarify: it is not their mandate to negotiate deals with other governments which are handled by the Iranian government; the Revolutionary Guard’s authority is for investigations. Their actions have only ever been to call for better cooperation between Iran and the UK.

Their anger prevented Nazanin’s mother from seeing her. Invited to Evin Prison for the subsequent family visit, she was made to wait outside, while Nazanin’s father took Gabriella in. They were marched through the corridors with a sack over their heads. Even inside prison, sackcloth is the standard issue silencer for the Revolutionary Guard. Even for family visits. I am glad Gabriella is young enough to enjoy dressing up games.

Nazanin also wished to express her thanks to her interrogators for allowing her that call, and for allowing these family visits for Gabriella. She also wanted me to thank some of her interrogators for the kindness they have shown.

Other families now out the other side speak of interrogators’ threats – of other relatives being detained, of unfortunate road accidents to children, other health risks that accompany a failure to cooperate – acting as a backdrop to the legal show. Nazanin has said nothing of the pressures behind closed doors.

In fact following those messages she said nothing at all. No family visits were allowed for the subsequent few weeks until after Nazanin’s trial. In case she wasn’t feeling sufficiently isolated.

It was only after Sunday’s trial Nazanin was allowed another visit. Her family were relieved to find her calm. She said she had answered their questions honestly, and done her best to convince them she is innocent.

Now we are in the hands of the judge.

They are hard to persuade. One key suspicion he is considering is why there have been over 100 newspaper articles on Nazanin’s story? Why is she so important? The prosecution’s logic is like the old water ordeals - protesting her innocence proof of her guilt.

Because of this I have had anguished requests from my in-laws, as well as suggestions from the Revolutionary Guard, preferring me not to speak.

I have had to tell them clearly: I was quiet for over a month, while Nazanin was kept in such cruelty. I will be quiet again when Nazanin and Gabriella are back home. Not before.

I speak out for lots of reasons:

Because the truth still feels the best response to bullying. Nazanin was on holiday with a baby. She is a charity worker of educational projects. Remove the blindfolds and the accusations of espionage are an Emperor’s new clothes. Even if no one inside can say it.

Because it keeps my head straight – all these changing stories and secrets, promises and threats seem designed to bewilder, mind games to make our imaginations run wild. Documenting is my audit trail against these games. I will not be their Winston Smith.

But mostly, I speak because you are watching. Right now, your watching is what keeps Nazanin safe. Because you can see the sound and fury around her for what it is, you see the Guards for what they are. And you see us.

I speak because you keep us in the light. And because that will see us home.

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