Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, British woman held captive by Iran since 2016, is released

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, British woman held captive by Iran since 2016, is released
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.Family Handout / PA
  • A British-Iranian woman detained by Iran since 2016 was released on Wednesday, her lawyer said.
  • Iran accused Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe of being a spy. Her family and the UK deny this.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who had been detained by Iran since 2016, was released Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning UK time, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in the air departing Tehran, due to return to the United Kingdom late in the evening via Oman.

Anoosheh Ashoori, another British-Iranian dual national held by Iran, was also released and on his way out of the country. He was sentenced to ten years in jail in 2019 and accused of spying for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and "acquiring illegitimate wealth," claims that he denies.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori's release Wednesday and said they were both returning to the UK.

Tulip Siddiq, the member of parliament for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's constituency, tweeted: "Nazanin is at the airport in Tehran and on her way home. I came into politics to make a difference, and right now I'm feeling like I have."


Siddiq also posted this photo, which she said shows Zaghari-Ratcliffe traveling home:

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation — a charity that does not work directly with the news agency — was arrested in Iran in 2016 and accused of being a spy.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken at a Tehran airport in April 2016 when she was returning home to London with her young daughter after visiting her parents.

An Iranian court convicted her of spying, training journalists, and plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment. She, her family, and the British government have repeatedly denied the allegations.

She was held in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, the Iranian capital. She was denied permission to seek medical attention even after she described finding lumps in her breast and being in a fragile mental state. Ashoori was also held in Evin Prison, his family said.


Truss said the release of the British nationals came "in parallel" with the settlement of a £393.8 million ($516 million) debt owed by the UK to Iran, which had been outstanding for more than 40 years since the Iranian Revolution.

The debt was created when the British government cancelled the delivery of military vehicles due to be delivered to the overthrown government led by the Shah of Iran. The terms of the agreement are confidential but the funds will be ringfenced for the purchase of humanitarian goods, Truss said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and the British government had been appealing for her release for almost six years.

Video shows BBC News presenter Joanna Gosling choking up as she announced news of the release.

In her Wednesday tweet, Truss also said Morad Tahbaz, a British-American wildlife conservationist whom Iran arrested in 2018 and accused of espionage, was temporarily released from prison in Iran. There has been no evidence to back Iran's claim about Tahbaz.