Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Briton freed in Iran as ankle tag removed – but she faces another court date

A British woman held in Iran for five years over claims she plotted to overthrow the government has had her ankle tag removed but faces another court date.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe‘s lawyer, Hojjat Kermani, told Sky News that she had been released and could now move around as long as she doesn’t leave the country.

He also confirmed next week’s court hearing.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said today’s development was “more mixed” but that his wife was “pleased” the ankle tag was off.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “We welcome the removal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag, but Iran’s continued treatment of her is intolerable.

“She must be allowed to return to the UK as soon as possible to be reunited with her family.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport while taking her infant daughter to see her parents in April 2016.

The 42-year-old was later jailed over allegations of plotting to overthrow Iran‘s government – which she denies.

The Briton’s sister-in-law told Sky News she joined the video call to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe earlier on Sunday.

Rebecca Ratcliffe said she appeared “upbeat” and “pleased” the tag was gone.

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‘More sleepless nights ahead’ – sister-in-law

But she said there was nervousness about what next Sunday’s court date would bring – with the same judge who sentenced her last time.

The family are uncertain if it will be just a formality to return her passport, or if a new sentence will be handed down.

“We don’t know and I think there’s a few more sleepless nights ahead of us,” said Ms Ratcliffe.

Tulip Siddiq, the detained Briton’s MP in north London, said she feared the court date could result in “fake charges” to extend her sentence.

Sky News diplomatic editor Dominic Waghorn said it was “pretty clear from the Iranians she’s being held as a hostage” over decades of wrangling linked to a £400m tank deal.

He said Iran paid the money for the tanks in 1979 but they were never delivered because the Iranian Revolution happened.

“The Iranians have made it pretty clear that once that money’s been paid she will be released,” said Waghorn.

He said the money could finally be released in April, and that the latest development might be the Iranians “playing for time”.

A dual Iran-UK citizen, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was allowed to move to her parents’ home last March due to the coronavirus threat in prison.

She was under house arrest and has been wearing a tracker tag that limited her to 300m from their Tehran home.

On Saturday, her husband told Sky News their daughter had been using a calendar to count the days to when her mother would hopefully be released.

Despite a long fight by campaigners, authorities always resisted pressure to release her when she was in jail – despite concerns for her physical and mental health.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family in a photo given to the media in 2017

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a former aid worker who came to the UK in 2007 to study, has consistently denied claims she was involved in trying to overthrow Iran’s hardline regime.

Boris Johnson harmed her case in November 2017 when he told an MPs’ committee that she had been training journalists in Iran at the time of her arrest.

Days later, she was brought in front of a court where the comments were cited as proof she was involved in “propaganda against the regime”.

Mr Johnson later apologised for the “anguish” he had caused and admitted he “could and should have been clearer”, saying his words “were open to being misinterpreted”.

Undated family handout file photo of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe whose husband, Richard has said that Iran's alleged use of prisoners as "collateral" over a multi-million pound dispute with the UK is "completely outrageous.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s daughter, 6, had been counting down to the end of her sentence

He told MPs: “The British government has no doubt Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran on holiday and that was the sole purpose of her visit.”

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that the process of trying to free the Briton had been “frustratingly slow”.

She said there hadn’t been “enough focus and effort” on her case – as well as those of other dual UK-Iran citizens.

“When I meet this family I feel there’s not much more they can take of this to be honest,” said Ms Nandy.

“Other countries have made more progress in getting their nationals home.

“We need to see a real concerted effort now – led by the prime minister – to make up for some of the mistakes he’s made in the past.”

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