Written by Amy Beecham
Reports began on Tuesday that Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be closer to being released after being given back her UK passport.
British-Iranian nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashouri are heading to Tehran airport ahead of leaving the country, their lawyer has said.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been given her UK passport back, nearly six years after she was arrested while visiting family.
Iranian authorities alleged Zaghari-Ratcliffe was plotting to topple the government in Tehran, but no official charges were made public. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said she was leading a “foreign-linked hostile network” when she visited the country, which she has always denied.
Labour MP Tulip Siddiq shared the update on Twitter, writing: “Nazanin is at the airport in Tehran and on her way home.”
Siddiq previously shared that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been given her passport back, writing: “She is still at her family home in Tehran. I also understand that there is a British negotiating team in Tehran right now. I will keep posting updates as I get them.”
However, human rights group Amnesty International had previously stressed that while they “hope these reports are correct” and “a resolution can’t come soon enough”, there is still reason for caution. “In the past we’ve had false dawn after false dawn over possible breakthroughs, so it’s only right to be cautious at the moment,” the group wrote in a statement on its website.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detainment has remained a high-profile case. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has long campaigned for her release, including a 21-day hunger strike in October last year outside the UK Foreign Office.
Successive foreign secretaries have led efforts to secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, but Boris Johnson’s government has repeatedly been criticised for its failure to negotiate her release.
About a dozen Western dual nationals are believed to be held by Iran, including British-Iranian retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori.
Speaking during a visit to Abu Dhabi, the prime minister said negotiations for the release of dual nationals in Tehran had been going on “for a long time” and that “talks continue to be under way”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer called the news regarding Zaghari-Ratcliffe “encouraging”, writing on Twitter: “This should be a significant step forward in her fight for freedom and being back with her loved ones.
The Government must now secure Nazanin, Anoosheh, Morad and Mehran’s release.”
According to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family, she was told by local authorities that she was being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400m debt to Iran.
The government has accepted it should pay the “legitimate debt” for an order of 1,500 Chieftain tanks that were not fulfilled after the shah was deposed and replaced by a revolutionary regime.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News this morning the UK is working “very hard” to secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.
This article will be updated as the story develops.
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