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Three-day bail for British-Iranian

August 23, 2018

Iran has released for just three days a British-Iranian woman jailed on sedition charges over the past two years. British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said London would push for her to be freed permanently.

Nazanin Zaghari
Image: The Free Nazanin campaign

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on bail from Evin prison on Thursday and reunited with her family, including her 4-year-old daughter, Gabriella, at Damavand in Tehran province, according to multiple reports.

Iranian bail terms included that her family's home in Tehran be used as collateral, that she return to prison next Sunday, and that she must not give media interviews.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, described by the Thomson Reuters Foundation as one of its project managers, was arrested in 2016 while departing Tehran's airport.

She was subsequently jailed for five years on a charge of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment, a claim denied by the foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and her family, which said she had been visiting relatives.

Permanent release demanded

Foreign Secretary Jermey Hunt described her temporary release as "really good news" and said London would push for her to be freed permanently.

Visiting the United Nations in New York, Hunt said: "We want to thank the Iranian authorities for what they're doing whilst not forgetting that she should not be in prison in the first place. Nazanin is innocent."

Iran's ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, said on Twitter: "Mrs. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been granted a three-day release from prison in Iran to reunite with her family."

Iranian authorities did not otherwise provide immediate comment.

Diplomatic blunder

Last year, Britain's then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was heavily criticized for claiming that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "teaching people journalism."

Iran Teheran Besuch Boris Johnson
December 2017: ex-foreign secretary Johnson blunder visiting TehranImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Noroozi

Iranian state television later highlighted Johnson's remarks as justification for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's imprisonment. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the Thomson Reuters Foundation had always denied Iranian allegations that she was engaged in journalistic work in Iran. 

Release at short-notice

A London-based Free Nazanin campaign group led by her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told in jail early on Thursday that she had only 10 minutes to get ready to leave on furlough.

Once outside, she had to borrow a phone from someone to call her brother, who lives in Tehran, to pick her up.

"I cried so much. I felt so overwhelmed," she was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Free Nazanin campaign.

Over the past two years, Richard Ratcliffe and supporters have held multiple protests and vigils in London, appealing for her release.

ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP)