Jailed Brit Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been freed from prison in Iran and is preparing to return home to the UK today.
The British-Iranian mum-of-one, who had her passport returned yesterday, could soon be reunited with her daughter and husband.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 44, has been detained in the Middle East for nearly six years after being arrested while taking her daughter to see her family.
She was accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, which she denied.
Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, the family’s local MP, confirmed the news in tweet: “Nazanin is at the airport in Tehran and on her way home. I came into politics to make a difference, and right now I’m feeling like I have.”
Siddiq said she had been told from husband Richard Ratcliffe that Nazanin is at the airport in Tehran but “still under the authority of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard”.
He told her “they can smell freedom, they just haven’t grasped it yet”
Free Nazanin campaign/AFP via Ge)
The family’s lawyer Hojjat Kermani said she had been freed alongside fellow detainee Anousheh Ashoori, following talks between London and Tehran over a £400million debt between the UK and Iranian governments.
“Both of them are on their way to the airport in Tehran to leave Iran,” Kermani said.
Iran’s judiciary officials were not immediately available to comment.
However, Iranian state media said the UK has “settled a long-overdue debt” of around £400 million to Tehran.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss previously said there was a British team in Tehran working to release British-Iranian dual nationals in Iran, including Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Speaking to Sky News, Ms Truss said: “We have been having discussions. I met my counterpart, the Iranian foreign minister, back in September – we’ve been in regular touch since. We do have a team in Tehran, but I absolutely can’t say anything else at this stage.”
Ms Truss said the UK was working “very hard” to “secure the release of Nazanin”, and other dual-nationals.
The Cabinet minister said it was also a “priority to pay the debt that we owe to Iran” – a reference to the £400million outstanding in relation to a cancelled order for 1,500 Chieftain tanks dating back to the 1970s – but stressed she could not say anymore.
This morning, BBC news reader Joanna Gosling become emotional as she broke the news of Zaghari-Ratcliffe release live on air.
She said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been called in for “quite intense” questioning by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and
It comes after her husband Richard Ratcliffe said that the government “only deals with problems when they become crises”, and has been heavily critical of its response to the family’s plight.
He had called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to acknowledge that his wife is being held “hostage” in Iran, and has pitched a tent in central London where he plans to keep a vigil outside the government building.
Last year, Richard spent 21 days camped outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) without food.
He began his demonstration on October 24 after his wife lost her latest appeal in Iran, saying his family was “caught in a dispute between two states”.
After 21 days on on King Charles Street, where Mr Ratcliffe has been staging his hunger strike, he said his job is to “keep going”, adding: “We probably hoped we’d get a breakthrough doing this. We haven’t yet.
“I didn’t want to go out in an ambulance. I want to walk out with my head held high.”
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taking the couple’s daughter Gabriella to see her family when she was arrested and sentenced to five years in jail, spending four years in Evin Prison and one under house arrest.
The United Nations had called for Nazanin’s release, and 1.5 million people signed an online petition urging British and Iranian leaders to secure her safe return to the UK.
In 2020, it was reported Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was on the brink of being freed from jail in Iran almost two-and-a-half years prior, until a planned deal collapsed.
The mother-of-one’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said the family had even been given a date of December 28 2017 for his wife’s return to the UK.
It is unclear why the deal fell through.
The revelations were made during a BBC Panorama investigation into the detention of British and other western citizens in Iran.
It has long been claimed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in order to force the UK into settling a multi-million pound dispute with Iran.
The nightmare ordeal left her feeling suicidal while detained, her husband previously said.
He said: “The uncertainty is torturous, we’re talking open-ended detention. It leaves her fearing she’ll never get out.
“The fear is not being taken back to normal prison, the fear is being taken back to torture.”
Nazanin also told independent investigators she was threatened with execution and the torture of her family.
She also said she was chained and blindfolded in prison – and suffered sensory and sleep deprivation.
And she said she was interrogated for nine hours at a time in solitary and bombarded with bright lights and blaring TVs.
Richard says Nazanin, who spent a week in a psychiatric hospital chained to the bed in 2018, was even left suicidal.
She was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, said: “This is fantastic news, but it hasn’t come a moment too soon.
“Nazanin and Anoosheh should never have been detained in the first place – they were both jailed on trumped-up national security charges, a familiar tactic in Iran.
“Nazanin and Anoosheh have unquestionably been used as political pawns by the Iranian authorities – and the Iranian authorities have acted with calculated cruelty, seeking to wring the maximum diplomatic value out of their captivity.
“The Government needs to follow up on Nazanin and Anoosheh’s release by immediately renewing its calls for the release of the UK nationals Mehran Raoof and Morad Tahbaz, both of whom are still going through an ordeal all too similar to Nazanin and Anoosheh’s.
“It’s been clear for years that the Iranian authorities are targeting foreign nationals with spurious national security-related charges to exert diplomatic pressure, and it’s more important than ever that Britain works multilaterally to combat this insidious practice.”
Why and when was Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained in Iran as UK passport is returned
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