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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Has Been Freed And Will Return To The UK From Iran Today

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Has Been Freed And Will Return To The UK From Iran Today

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq posted a picture of Nazanin on a plane having left Iran (Twitter)

6 min read

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will return to Britain today after being detained in Iran since April 2016, the foreign secretary Liz Truss has confirmed.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq claimed on Tuesday that a British negotiating team had travelled to Iran, and that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been given her British passport back.

Writing on Twitter, the Hampstead and Kilburn MP said on Wednesday that "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," she wrote.

This lunchtime Truss confirmed she will be returning home later today, along with another imprisoned British-Iranian dual national.

"I can confirm Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori will return to the UK today, and Morad Tahbaz has been released from prison on furlough," she tweeted.

"They will be reunited with their families later today. We will continue to work to secure Morad's departure from Iran.

Truss continued: “Their release is the result of years of hard work and dedication by our brilliant diplomats, and intensive efforts over the past six months. I pay tribute to my predecessors and the Prime Minister, who have all worked hard to resolve this issue.

“We have the deepest admiration for the resolve, courage and determination Nazanin, Anoosheh and Morad, and their families, have shown. They have faced hardship that no family should ever experience and this is a moment of great relief.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was first arrested at Imam Kohmeini airport in 2016 while visiting Iran with her daughter.

She was sentenced to a five-year term in prison for the charge of spying, an allegation she strongly denies.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that talks over the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other British citizens detained in Iran were "moving forward". 

He later tweeted to say he was "delighted they will be reunited with their families and loved ones".

Siddiq posted a picture seemingly of Zaghari-Ratcliffe on a plane having left Iran, saying: "It's been 6 long years - and I can't believe I can finally share this photo.

"Nazanin is now in the air flying away from 6 years of hell in Iran. My heart goes out to Gabriella and Richard, as her long journey back home to them gets closer by the minute."

There have been claims that her detention related to the UK's failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.

But foreign secretary Liz Truss dismissed these claims on Wednesday, telling Sky News that the debt was a "seperate issue" and that the UK was committed to paying it.

She confirmed later on Wednesday that the total amount had been "settled", adding that it had been one of her "top priorities" since becoming foreign secretary.

“The IMS debt has been settled in full compliance with UK and international sanctions and all legal obligations."

Truss stated that final total of £393.8 million will be "ring-fenced solely for the purchase of humanitarian goods", which keeps the payment in compliants with international sanctions and all the legal obligations. The full terms of the settlement will remain confidential. 

Truss revealed that she first sent Foreign Office negotiators to Tehran to secure the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and others in October last year, and also met with the Omani foreign minister in December to "secure Oman’s diplomatic assistance".

“Last month I spoke twice to Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian in a final push to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.

"Our officials then held a last round of negotiations to sign off an agreement allowing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori to return to the UK, and Morad Tahbaz to be released on furlough to his house in Tehran."

It is understood that Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori will arrive back in the UK later on Wednesday evening at around 10:30pm.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has long campaigned for her release, and went on hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in October 2021 to pressure the government to do more to obtain her release. 

He told broadcasters that he was "deeply grateful" for her release and that he and their daughter Gabriella, who had been "singing and playing the piano all morning" following the news of her mother's return, were "looking forward to a new life".

Ratcliffe also thanked everyone who had offered him and his family support over the past six years. 

"We wouldn't have got here, this wouldn't have happened today, without all the care and support of people up and down the country," he said.

"That's ordinary people, people in the media, people in politics, some celebrities.

He added: "I remember saying this on the hunger strike - this has been a cruel experience in some ways, but it has also been an exposure to such a level of kindness and care from all walks of life."

Ratcliffe said he had been "kept out of the loop" of the discussions about the £400 million debt, and that the situation had been resolved "behind closed doors".

"I don't know what's happened, I've seen briefings and so on. I'm relieved the problem has been solved."

In a statement, Anoosheh Ashoori's family said they were "delighted" that he was returning home after "5 long years".

"This day has been a long time coming, and we are thankful for the efforts of everyone involved in bringing Anoosheh home.

"1672 days ago our family’s foundations were rocked when our father and husband was unjustly detained and taken away from us. Now, we can look forward to rebuilding those same foundations with our cornerstone back in place."

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