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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrives home from Iran after six years of unjust detention

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and another British-Iranian citizen jailed in Iran arrived home last night after ministers paid off a historic £400m debt to the Tehran regime.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her fellow detainee Anousheh Ashoori were flown to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

The mother was reunited with her seven-year-old daughter Gabriella and her husband Richard, who has waged a long and very public campaign for her freedom.

hey said the independent last night that he was looking forward to an emotional reunion after his six-year ordeal.

“We’ll have a couple of days here to catch up,” he said. “It probably involves having a cup of tea together, hanging out, learning to be normal and playing games.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained on security charges by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards after a holiday visit to Iran, where she introduced her daughter Gabriella to her parents.

A third detainee, London-born wildlife conservationist Morad Tahbaz, has been temporarily released from prison “on furlough”, but his ultimate fate is complicated by the fact that he holds US nationality, as well as British and Iranian nationality. And British-Iranian Mehran Raoof remains in custody as his release does not appear to have been part of the deal.

In a coordinated move, the UK made a £393.8m payment to settle a 40-year debt for Chieftain tanks bought by the former Shah of Iran but never delivered after the 1979 Islamic Revolution ousted him. power.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was accused of worsening Nazanin’s position as foreign minister when he wrongly told MPs that he had been working as a journalist in Iran, welcomed the development.

He said: “The UK has worked extensively to secure their release and I am delighted that they are reunited with their families and loved ones.”

The Ratcliffes’ lawyer, Penny Madden, said the family had been through “a roller coaster of emotions” in recent days as their release seemed to be drawing near and now felt “enormous relief.” Gabriella was “beyond excited at the prospect of meeting her mom,” Ms. Madden said.

But he said it was a “great pain” for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe to leave her parents in Iran, knowing it would be almost impossible for her to return to the country.

Speaking to reporters with Gabriella near their north London home, Ratcliffe said it was a “huge, huge relief” that his wife was finally back.

“You can’t go back in time, but we live in the future, not the past,” he said. “We will take it one day at a time.

“It will be the beginning of a new life, a normal life. Can we still believe it? I think when we see mom, we’ll believe it.”

Iran sentenced Nazanin, a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the Reuters news agency, to five years in prison in September 2016 after accusing her of “plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime,” a charge she has always denied.

Britain has always insisted that the dispute over non-payments cannot be linked to wrongful arrests.

But it is clear that the settlement of long-standing debt was instrumental in securing Iran’s clerical government’s agreement to the releases.

UK officials are refusing to discuss details of the payment, which were agreed on the condition of confidentiality. But it is understood that it has not been made in cash and may be in the form of credit for purchases of humanitarian supplies such as vaccines.

In a statement, Truss said the release was “the result of dogged and creative British diplomacy.”

She said: “We have the deepest admiration for the resolve, courage and determination that Nazanin, Anoosheh and Morad, and their families, have shown. They have faced hardships that no family should experience and this is a time of great relief.”

Ms Truss said the historic debt had been settled “in parallel” with the detainee negotiations and “in full compliance with UK and international sanctions and all legal obligations”.

He added: “These funds will be reserved solely for the purchase of humanitarian goods.”

Concluding the deal has required lengthy negotiations to find a way to make the payment without Britain breaking UK or international sanctions and remaining within its international obligations.

Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it had been decided during his tenure in 2018 that the UK would return the money and that “practical difficulties” related to Iran sanctions had prevented progress.

Since the detentions began, a series of prime ministers and foreign ministry ministers have spoken directly with their Iranian counterparts 35 times to press for their release and spoke 75 times with the families of the detainees.

Ms Truss said that, when she arrived at the Foreign Office last September, it had become her “top priority” to resolve the two issues, and the intensity of the talks has intensified in recent months.

His meeting with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in New York in September was the first face-to-face contact at this level in three years and led to an agreement to work on a solution to the disputes “in parallel”.

Ms Truss sent a team of experienced negotiators to Tehran in October and spoke again with the Iranian foreign minister that month.

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