British-Iranian aid worker released after five years: lawyer | News | DW | 07.03.2021
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British-Iranian aid worker released after five years: lawyer

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016 and later convicted of plotting to topple the government and sentenced to five years in jail. A British lawmaker said she was, however, summoned again to court.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in 2016

British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has ended for five-year sentence in Iran, her lawyer Hojjat Kermani said on Sunday.

Her ankle bracelet was removed, but she has been summoned again to court, according to British lawmaker Tulip Siddiq. 

"I have been in touch with Nazanin's family. Some news: 1) Thankfully her ankle tag has been removed. Her first trip will be to see her grandmother. 2) Less positive - she has been summoned once again to court next Sunday," Siddiq, who is the member of parliament for where Zaghari-Ratcliffe used to live, said on Twitter.

It was not immediately clear whether Zaghari-Ratcliffe was allowed to leave Iran. Kermani was quoted as saying that "a hearing for Zaghari's second case has been scheduled at branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran."

Ankle bracelet removed for first time

The aid worker was able to remove her ankle bracelet for the first time since being released from prison on furlough because of the pandemic last year, her lawyer said. She has been under arrest at her parent's home in Tehran since. 

Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA reported on Sunday that Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be summoned to court on March 13 over the new charges, which were not specified. No other Iranian media immediately confirmed the new court date. 

UK calls for immediate release

In response, the UK government called for the immediate release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, as the looming court date dashes hopes from her family, friends and colleagues of an immediate return home. British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government in London welcomed the removal of her ankle bracelet. 

However, he said her treatment by Iranian authorities was "intolerable."

"She must be allowed to return to the UK as soon as possible to be reunited with her family," Raab tweeted. 

It remained unclear what would happen in court next week. Her family and supporters fear the worst, due to tattered political relations between Iran and the UK, and other world powers. 

'More sleepless nights ahead'

"We don't know how to interpret being summoned ... Is it that they're just going to finish off all the paperwork and release her and give her passport back? Or Is it that they are going to whack her with that second sentence?'' her husband's sister, Rebecca Ratcliffe, told Sky News. The uncertainty means "there are a few more sleepless nights ahead of us," she said. 

The move comes as tensions escalate over Iran's atomic deal with world powers. Since former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, Iran has been accelerating its breaches of the agreement by enriching more uranium than allowed, along other violations. 

Additionally, Britain and Iran are negotiating a row over a debt of around £400 million (€465 million) ($530 million) owed to Iran by London, for a payment the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi made for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at a Tehran airport in April 2016 as she prepared to return to Britain with her daughter after a family visit.

She was later sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment. 

lc/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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