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Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 as she prepared to fly back to the UK.
Homeward Bound

British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has left Iran and will return to UK today

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained since 2016.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 16th 2022, 1:50 PM

BRITISH-IRANIAN MOTHER Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has left Iran and will return to the UK today, the British Foreign Secretary has confirmed. 

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since 2016 on spying charges, which she has always denied. 

Liz Truss confirmed this afternoon that Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori will return to the UK today, where they will be reunited with their families.

She said that Morad Tahbaz, a British-Iranian man who had also been detained, has been released from prison on furlough. “We will continue to work to secure Morad’s departure from Iran,” she said in a tweet.

Speaking outside the British Foreign Office, Truss said: “I’m delighted that Nazanin, Anoosheh and Morad have all been released by the Iranians, and that Nazanin and Anoosheh will return back home to the UK.”

“We have been working hard over the last six months to ensure that we were able to secure the release of these detainees – Nazanin, Anoosheh and Morad – and make sure that they are able to – this is happening for Nazanin and Anoosheh – make sure they’re able to return back to the UK,” she said.

“I just want to say my sympathies are with the families for what they’ve suffered over this appalling time and I’m delighted to be welcoming them back to the UK later today.”

Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP in Hampstead and Kilburn, posted a picture on Twitter of her constituent apparently on the plane home.

The Hampstead and Kilburn MP wrote: “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.”

Speaking to Sky News earlier, Siddiq said Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains “under the authority of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard” but her family can “smell freedom”.

“I’ve spoken to Richard Ratcliffe who said that Nazanin is now at the airport in Tehran, but made the point that she is very much still under the authority of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and that there has been no information about a deal,” she said.

“However, Richard is taking heart from the fact that his wife is at the airport in Iran, she does have her British passport back.

“And the way he described it to me is that he feels that they can smell freedom, they just haven’t grasped it yet.

“As you can imagine, Richard is very emotional, patiently waiting as he has been for six years, but doesn’t have confirmation that his wife is on the flight yet.”

There had been nervousness in Whitehall about the situation, with sources stressing the pair will not be free until they are actually on a plane out of Iran.

But the apparent breakthrough will bring an end to the ordeal for 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 introduced her daughter Gabriella to her parents.

There have been signs of progress in delicate negotiations between the UK and Iran in recent days.

But Johnson, during a trip to the Middle East, was careful not to elaborate further when speaking to reporters on Tuesday.

A glimmer of optimism for 43-year-old Zaghari-Ratcliffe came a day earlier when Siddiq said her British passport had been returned.

Johnson confirmed a British negotiating team was working in Tehran to secure the release of dual nationals, while Zaghari-Ratcliffe at the time remained at her family home in the Iranian capital.

“I really don’t think I should say much more, I’m sorry, although things are moving forward,” he told broadcasters at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi.

“I shouldn’t really say much more right now just because those negotiations continue to be underway and we’re going right up to the wire.”

While details of the negotiations remain unclear, it is possible they are linked to a £400 million debt dating back to the 1970s owned to Iran by the UK.

The Government accepts it should pay the “legitimate debt” for an order of 1,500 Chieftain tanks that were not fulfilled after the shah was deposed and replaced by a revolutionary regime.

Truss told Sky News earlier today that it is a “priority to pay the debt that we owe to Iran”.

The Tehran regime remains under strict sanctions, however, which has complicated efforts to repay the money.

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