Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on flight out of Iran as six-year nightmare ends

The British-Iranian mother and a second dual national Anoosheh Ashoori were both allowed to leave Iran after years in detention.

16 March 2022

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s six-year ordeal in Iran is over after she was released from detention and boarded a flight out of the country as the UK Government settled an outstanding £400 million debt owed to the regime in Tehran.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe, who has fought a tenacious battle to secure her release, said he was “deeply grateful” and that he and their daughter Gabriella were “looking forward to a new life”.

The British-Iranian mother is returning to Britain, along with a second dual national, Anoosheh Ashoori.

A third dual national, Morad Tahbaz, has been released from prison on furlough.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained on security charges by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday visit to Iran where she introduced her daughter Gabriella to her parents.

Mr Ashoori has been in prison for almost five years while Mr Tahbaz has been held for four.

Their release follows months of intensive diplomatic negotiations between London and Tehran.

Anoosheh Ashoori
Anoosheh Ashoori (Family Handout/PA)

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “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.”

Mr Ratcliffe has long claimed that his wife was being used as a pawn in a dispute between the UK and Iran over the unpaid debt linked to an arms deal

The UK has paid the £393.8 million owed to Iran after it cancelled an order of Chieftain tanks following the overthrow of the Shah in the revolution of 1979.

In a statement, Ms Truss confirmed the debt had been settled “in parallel” with the release of the detainees.

She said it had been done “in full compliance with UK and international sanctions and all legal obligations”.

She added: “These funds will be ring-fenced solely for the purchase of humanitarian goods.”

Sanctions on the Tehran regime had been one of the key sticking points in being able to settle the debt.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori were initially being take to the Gulf state of Oman – which has been closely involved in the behind-the-scenes negotiations to secure their release.

From there it is expected they will be flown on a Government-chartered flight to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Boris Johnson, visiting Gulf states, welcomed news of the detainees’ release.

“The UK has worked intensively to secure their release and I am delighted they will be reunited with their families and loved ones,” he tweeted.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP Tulip Siddiq, who has long campaigned for her release, posted a photograph of her on the flight carrying her to freedom.

“It’s been six long years – and I can’t believe I can FINALLY share this photo. Nazanin is now in the air flying away from six years of hell in Iran,” she tweeted.

Mr Ratcliffe, campaigned tirelessly for her release including staging a hunger strike outside the Foreign Office.

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