Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to Fly Home From Iran, U.K. Lawmaker Says

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LONDON — Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker whose arrest and detention in Tehran since 2016 has roiled relations between Britain and Iran, has been released and will fly back to Britain, a British lawmaker said on Wednesday.

“Nazanin is at the airport in Tehran and on her way home,” said the lawmaker, Tulip Siddiq, on Twitter.

The detention of Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and other British nationals in Iran, prompted debate in Britain about the country’s responsibilities toward citizens who run into problems abroad, amid accusations by their families that they were being used as diplomatic chips in disputes between Britain and Iran, including over a failed arms deal in 1976.

The latest move also came as American and European negotiators had been edging toward a pact limiting Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions on the country.

Ms. Siddiq, who represents the area of London where Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family lives and has been deeply involved in advocating for attention to her case, had said on Tuesday that the charity worker had received her passport back from Iranian authorities, a small step toward leaving Iran.

The release of Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, came after a long-running campaign of seeming breakthroughs and sudden barriers to releasing her. She was detained at Tehran’s airport in 2016 on the way back to Britain after visiting family members in Iran.

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was charged with plotting to overthrow the Iranian government and sentenced to five years in prison, and later moved to house arrest in her family’s home in Tehran in 2020, during the coronavirus epidemic.

Freedom appeared close last year after that sentence came to an end and she was permitted to stop wearing an ankle tag, but she was instead held on new charges of “propaganda activities,” banned from travel and sentenced to another year of detention.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has denied all the shifting charges against her, accusing the Iranian government of using her as a diplomatic pawn.

“It’s been clear for a long time that the Iranian authorities have been targeting foreign nationals with spurious national security-related charges to exert diplomatic pressure,” said Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty International U.K., after the news that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had received her passport back.

Mr. Ratcliffe has said that Iranian officials had in the past told Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she would be released once Britain repaid a debt of 400 million pounds, or about $522 million, to Iran related to the 1976 arms deal. Western countries, including the United States, have accused Iran of using their citizens as leverage over debts.

Megan Specia contributed reporting from Warsaw.



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