Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori finally home in UK


The ordeal for British-Iranian prisoners Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori has finally ended after Iran released and allowed them to return home to their families in the UK.

“It’s going to be the beginning of a new life,” Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband said, looking forward to the homecoming of his wife with their daughter Gabriella who planned to show her mother her new toys.

Mr. Ashoori’s family said they could now rebuild the foundations of their family with their “cornerstone back in place”.

In a statement, they hailed his release and return to the UK after “five long years” before thanking those who worked to bring him home.

Another prisoner, Morad Tahbaz, who has Iranian, UK and US nationality was also freed from prison but is not yet allowed to leave Iran.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss paid tribute to the “incredible resolve and determination” shown by Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Mr. Ashoori, Mr. Tahbaz and their families, saying the “agonies” they endured “must never happen again”.

Ms Truss said ministers would keep working to secure Mr. Tahbaz’s release.

The government has said it also settled a debt of almost £400m owed to Iran from the 1970s, with the funds ring-fenced solely for humanitarian purposes.

Speaking in the Commons, Tulip Siddiq – Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP – said: “Can I say to Nazanin, welcome home, after six long years. And can I say to Gabriella, this time mummy really is coming home.”

Paying tribute to Mr. Ratcliffe, who watched from the public gallery with Gabriella, Ms. Siddiq said he had “really set the bar high for husbands” in his efforts to secure his wife’s release.

Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been held in Iran since 2016 – accused of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government, which she denied.

Mr. Ashoori was arrested in 2017 and accused of spying, a claim he denied.

Cuddling his daughter, Gabriella, Mr. Ratcliffe told journalists they would really believe the news when they saw “Mummy”.

He said he wanted to thank people “up and down the country” for supporting his campaign for her release, which included a hunger strike last October.

“Ours has been a cruel experience in some ways, but it’s also been an exposure to such a level of kindness and care,” he said.

“This will be a chapter in our lives, but there are many more chapters to come.”

Speaking after hearing MPs speak in the House of Commons, he told the Press Association the family would “be away for a couple of days recuperating, doctors and check-ups and so on”.

Mr. Ashoori’s wife Sherry Izadi told the BBC that he was determined to put his ordeal behind him and return to normal life as soon as possible.

She said on his return to the UK he would most be looking forward to hugging his family and his first beer.

Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori were flown from Tehran to the capital of Oman, Muscat, and have since left on a plane to the UK.

Antonio Zappulla, chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation where Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked as a project manager, said staff were “overjoyed” at news of her release.

He said she had endured “utterly inhumane treatment” over the past six years, including being “denied her freedoms, separated from her husband and young child, battling significant illness, thrown in solitary confinement”.

But he added that her freedom was “a ray of light and hope” at a time when the world was “in turmoil and the news has been consistently bleak”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was “fantastic” Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been freed and could return to her family and that he was also “thrilled” for Mr Ashoori and Mr Tahbaz.

A £393.8m debt relating to a cancelled order for 1,500 Chieftain tanks dating back to the 1970s had been linked to the continued detention of Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other UK-Iranian dual nationals held in the country – although the government had previously said the two issues should not be connected.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr. Anoosheh had been freed on “humanitarian grounds” and that it would be “wrong” to link the UK’s payment of its debt to Iran to their release. (Source: BBC)