Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'allowed to leave Iran'

·5-min read

Watch: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘heading to Tehran airport and on her way home”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being allowed to leave Iran, her lawyer Hojjat Kermani has told the Reuters news agency.

The British-Iranian aid worker is currently at the airport in Tehran along with Anousheh Ashouri, another British-Iranian national, and will be allowed to leave Iran.

"Both of them are on their way to the airport in Tehran to leave Iran," Mr Kermani said.

The news was confirmed by her local MP Tulip Siddiq, who tweeted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "on her way home".

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'allowed to leave Iran' - TIM STEWART NEWS LIMITED
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'allowed to leave Iran' - TIM STEWART NEWS LIMITED

Iranian state media confirmed her release, saying she has been "handed over to the British government" after serving her "full sentence".

However, Ms Siddiq said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe remains "under the authority of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard" but her family can "smell freedom."

Fars news, which is run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, also reported that the British government has paid the $530m (£405m) debt owed to Tehran since the 1970s in relation to the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at a Tehran airport in April 2016. She was later convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. Her family and employer deny the charge as baseless.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'allowed to leave Iran' - Center for Human Rights in Iran
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'allowed to leave Iran' - Center for Human Rights in Iran

Mr Ashouri, a retired engineer and dual British-Iranian national, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2019 for spying for Israel's Mossad and two years for "acquiring illegitimate wealth", according to Iran's judiciary.

'Until she comes home, nobody will relax'

Penny Madden, Richard Ratcliffe's lawyer, said hopes "remain very high" about his wife's safe return to Britain.

"We still don't know, we still haven't had that confirmation, so there is enormous anxiety for Richard, for Gabriella, for the family, for Nazanin," she told Sky News.

"Until she comes home on that flight, nobody will be able to relax. So still very, very optimistic, we don't know what the delay is, we're very, very scared but remain ever-optimistic."

Ms Madden said she had spoken to Mr Ratcliffe - who is still in the UK - on Wednesday morning, and described him as "excited but tinged with that anxiety... We just hope for good news."

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'allowed to leave Iran' - Frank Augstein /AP
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'allowed to leave Iran' - Frank Augstein /AP

Richard Ratcliffe's sister has said it felt like they were on the "home run" following the news that she had been taken to the airport.

Rebecca Ratcliffe told the BBC: "It is quite emotional day today. It feels like we are on the home run now but until she leaves that airport we can't quite believe it.

"We found out about an hour ago that Nazanin had been picked up and taken to the airport with her parents. She is still actually under Iranian control in the airport.

"She is still not free but it definitely feels she is about to be."

Watch: BBC News presenter's emotional response as she announces Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he is "encouraged" by this morning's news, but noted that she still is yet to reach British soil.

"There's reason for hope and I am encouraged," Sir Keir Starmer told reporters. "It's obviously extremely sensitive after all that she's been through, her family have been through, I think all of us need to just allow the process to complete if it's possible to do so.

"We all desperately want her to be free but it's a very sensitive stage at this stage. I think we need to just let the process continue and hope for the best.

"At this stage, I think there are proceedings in place, there are reasons to be hopeful but I don't think any of us should say or do anything what I hope is a good process."

Government worked 'very hard' to secure release

Earlier this morning, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss had both indicated progress was being made in talks to free the pair, with the Foreign Secretary telling Sky News that Britain had a "team in Tehran" and the Government were working “very hard” to secure release of "unfairly detained" nationals, including Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Reports emerged yesterday that Britain had agreed to pay a debt of about £400million owed for non-delivery of Chieftain tanks in the 1970s.

Ms Truss appeared to confirm those reports this morning, saying on Sky that it was a “priority to pay the debt that we owe to Iran” and that she has been in regular contact with her Iranian counterpart.

The UK has long said that it would pay back the money but continues to insist there is no link between that payment and discussions about the release of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.