Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe released after 6 years’ detention in Iran

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “unfair detention” has ended and she will return to the UK today, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Twitter.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local UK Member of Parliament Tulip Siddiq tweeted a photo of her on board a plane saying she is now on her way home.

“It’s been 6 long years – and I can’t believe I can FINALLY share this photo,” wrote Siddiq. “Nazanin is now in the air flying away from 6 years of hell in Iran.”

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a tweet that Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow British Iranian national Anoosheh Ashoori “will be reunited with their families later today.”

Iran’s state-run Press TV said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been handed over to the UK government, without providing any further details. The country’s semi-official Fars news agency said she was being transferred to Tehran’s international airport, Imam Khomenei, with a British negotiating team.

On Wednesday, Hojjat Kermani, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyer, told CNN he did not want to comment on the latest developments for now.

He earlier told Reuters that Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another detained British-Iranian, Anousheh Ashouri, were “on their way to the airport in Tehran to leave Iran.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he was “delighted” that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been freed from “wrongful imprisonment” in a statement Wednesday.

“Nazanin and her loved ones have shown great courage, strength and steadfastness during what has been an unimaginably difficult time, and I want to pay tribute to all those who have campaigned tirelessly for her release,” said Khan. “London looks forward to welcoming her home.”

On Wednesday, a campaign group which pushed for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release thanked Siddiq, the family’s member of parliament, for her work on the case.

“You have made a difference @TulipSiddiq! Thanks for all the amazing support you have given to #FreeNazanin over these 6 long years,” the group wrote on Twitter.

Husband’s hunger strikes

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was first detained at a Tehran airport in April 2016 following a vacation to see her family with her daughter.

She was accused of working with organizations allegedly attempting to overthrow the Iranian regime and was later convicted and sentenced to five years in jail.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, have repeatedly denied the espionage charges against her.

In April 2021 she was handed a second jail sentence and travel ban on charges of spreading propaganda against the regime, and lost an appeal on her case in October.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given British diplomatic protection in 2019 and was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

She undertook at least three hunger strikes during her detention, one of them in a desperate bid to seek medical treatment for lumps in her breasts and numbness in her limbs.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe has also carried out hunger strikes in solidarity with his wife.

The couple’s daughter, Gabriella, who was just 22 months old at the time of her mother’s arrest, is now almost eight.

In 2019, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s supporters said she was transferred to the mental ward of a hospital in Tehran and was being denied visits from her father.

In February 2020, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family said she believed she had contracted Covid-19 in Evin Prison outside Tehran.

CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali, Vasco Cotovio, Nada Bashir, Sarra Alayyan, Zeena Saifi and Lauren Said-Moorhouse contributed to this report.

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