August 12, 2022

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British-Iranian nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri released

The British government said the two British nationals of Iranian descent, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri, have been released and are on their way to the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “delighted to be reunited with their families and loved ones”.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 43, was arrested in 2016 and charged with conspiring to overthrow the Iranian regime, which she denied.

Ashouri was also arrested in 2017 and charged with espionage, a charge he denied.

A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said that the authorities released both dual nationals.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said a third British citizen of Iranian origin, Morad Tahbaz, had been released from prison but would not return to the UK.

“We will continue to work to secure Murad’s departure from Iran,” Terrace added in a tweet.

Anousheh Ashouri with his wife Sherry Izadi

Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains under house arrest, and her British passport was returned to her this week.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who lives with their six-year-old daughter Gabriella in Hampstead in London, has campaigned for her release, including his hunger strike in October last year.

“Nazanin is now flying in the air, away from 6 years of hell in Iran,” Tolip Seddik, a Labor MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, tweeted with a picture of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

She added, “My thoughts are with Gabriella and Richard. Minutes and her long journey make her way back home.”

A friend earlier told the BBC that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was at the airport with her passport, but that she remained “under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard”.

She said the deal to secure her freedom was “not completed yet”.

“I will not rest until she has set foot on British soil, in West Hampstead, in her house,” she added.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after her release from house arrest in Tehran in March 2021

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sister-in-law, Rebecca Ratcliffe, told the BBC it was a “touching day”.

“It feels like we’re on our way home now, but until you leave that airport we can’t believe it,” she added.

She said Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to the airport with her parents, and they were not allowed to be with her in the holding room because “she was still under Iranian control at the airport.”

“So she’s still not free. But she definitely feels close to it,” she added.

Siddiq, the Labor MP for Hampstead and Clayburn in London, had said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “dreaming” about the day she could return to the UK.

In an interview with BBC Breakfast, the Terrace said that securing the freedom of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and the freedom of other detainees with dual nationals, such as Anousheh Ashouri and Murad Tahbaz, is an “absolute priority.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe met her daughter Gabriella during her temporary release from prison

There is believed to be a link between a £400m debt case related to an order to cancel a deal to sell 1,500 tanks to Iran dating back to the 1970s, and the continued detention of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other British and Iranian nationals in Iran, even though the government has said it should not. The connection between the two cases.

The British government said it was committed to repaying the debt and was “examining options to resolve the matter”.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was a “wonderful moment” for Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family after an “unimaginable ordeal”.

There will be questions to be answered about “what happened along the way”, he added, but for now he shares the feelings of the family.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who denies the charges, was first detained for five years in 2016 after being accused of conspiring against the regime. She was then sentenced to another year in prison in April 2021 for “spreading propaganda.”

She had spent the last year of her first sentence under house arrest at her parents’ home in Tehran. The British government said two British nationals of Iranian descent, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri, had been released and were on their way to the UK.