Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be released and allowed to leave Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman detained in Iran nearly six years ago, has been released and is on her way back to the UK.

Both Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow detainee Anousheh Ashoori are heading to Tehran airport to leave the country, said Tulip Siddiq.

Yesterday, the British-Iranian mother was given her passport back nearly six years after she was arrested while visiting family having been accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, which she denied.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, MP in Hampstead and Kilburn, tweeted: “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.

“More details to follow. #FreeNazanin”

Iranian state media said the UK has “settled a long-overdue debt” of around £400 million to Tehran.

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British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is about to leave Iran where she has been detained, the Reuters news agency has reported.

The Foreign Office has not commented on the reports and earlier on Tuesday Boris Johnson said negotiations about Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe were “moving forward” but “going right up to the wire”.

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.

Handout file photo dated 17/03/2020 of detained British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is "at the airport in Tehran and on her way home", her MP Tulip Siddiq has said. Issue date: Wednesday March 16, 2022.

“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.”

Richard Ratcliffe’s sister has said it felt like they were on the “home run” following the news that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been taken to the airport.

Rebecca Ratcliffe told the BBC: “It is quite emotional day today. It feels like we are on the home run now but until she leaves that airport we can’t quite believe it.

“We found out about an hour ago that Nazanin had been picked up and taken to the airport with her parents. She is still actually under Iranian control in the airport.

“She is still not free but it definitely feels she is about to be.”

Following the news that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is on her way home to the UK from Iran, Sir Keir Starmer said: “For Nazanin, for Richard, and their daughter, this is an incredible moment after so much anguish.”

Speaking to reporters in Huddersfield, the Labour leader said: “The courage that they have shown over so many years, I’ve met Richard many times – I know, I can feel what this will mean for him, for Nazanin, for their daughter and their family.

“My emotion, I think, will be the emotion of families across the whole of the country which is just so pleased for them.

“There will be questions of course, for other people to answer, but at the moment but at the moment, I’m so pleased for them as a family that this incredible moment appears to have come about and I think the British public – all of us – will just be wishing them all the very best after the unimaginable ordeal that they’ve been through.”

Sir Keir added: “Complex, difficult negotiations, lots of questions to be answered about what happened along the way, but at this moment, all of my thoughts are with the family in this emotional reuniting after so many long, unimaginable what they’ve been through.

“I’m just imagining how they’ll be feeling, being able to reunite as a family and I’m so delighted for them.”

The apparent breakthrough will bring an end to the ordeal for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe which began in 2016 when she was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday visit to Iran where she showed her daughter Gabriella to her parents.