Everything we know about when Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will be freed
British-Iranian mother faces a new court date in Iran later this month
Jailed British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been released from house arrest in Iran as her five-year sentence ends, but now faces a new set of charges in court later this month.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held on spying charges since 2016 spending much of her time in the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. She was removed from the prison last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but has been under house arrest at her parents’ home since March.
Although her ankle tag has been removed, a new 14 March court date means it is unlikely she will be able to return to her London home immediately as she and her family had hoped. The new charges include spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic by attending a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in London in 2009 and speaking to BBC Persian Television, Reuters reports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted he was “pleased” to see the removal of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag, but that her continued confinement was “totally unacceptable”. “She must be released permanently so she can return to her family in the UK, and we continue to do all we can to achieve this”, he added.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted that while the UK “welcome[s] the removal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag... She must be allowed to return to the UK as soon as possible to be reunited with her family”.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, told The Telegraph that the news was “mixed”, adding that Iranian authorities were “giving with one hand and taking with the other”.
“They have closed the legal anomaly of needing to release her, but still found a way to keep her under jeopardy,” he said. “She is very pleased this afternoon to be without an ankle tag, so for now we are just enjoying that. But we will have to see what next week brings - clearly she is still being held as leverage over the UK.”
It has long been thought that Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s arrest is linked to historic arms sales debt owed by the UK to Iran and that she and other British-Iranian nationals are being held hostage until the UK repays the debt.
Recently retired head of the Foreign Office Simon McDonald told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ordeal is nearing its “endgame” and that the UK had been looking at repaying the historic £400m debt to Iran through humanitarian payments, The Guardian reports.
“We acknowledge it is Iranian money and it does have to go back to Iran,” said McDonald. “A key complication is that Iran is subject to very comprehensive sanctions so how this money is repaid is part of the story.”
However, he stressed that the repayment of the debt and the release of British-Iranian dual citizens were unrelated.