After nearly five years in an Iranian prison and one year under house arrest, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the United Kingdom and was reunited with her family last week.
The British-Iranian woman, wife to Richard and mother to an 8-year-old daughter, served as a charity worker with the Thomson Reuters Foundation when she was imprisoned by Iranian authorities in 2016.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe took off from Iran on a Royal Air Force plane on Thursday along with Anoosheh Ashoori, a British-Iranian retired civil engineer, who was detained in 2017 on spying charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was reunited with her daughter Gabriella, who was just 22 months old at the time of her arrest.
The regime in Tehran accused Zaghari-Ratcliffe of being a spy and of plotting to overthrow the government. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained at the Tehran airport following a vacation to visit family with her daughter and was later convicted and sentenced to five years in jail. In 2021, she received a second jail sentence and travel ban on charges of spreading propaganda against the regime.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her family and the Thomson Reuters Foundation have all repeatedly denied the espionage charges against her. Nevertheless, she lost the appeals on her case.
Her return home on Thursday was made possible following negotiations between the Iranian regime and the U.K. government to settle a $524 million historic debt. Tehran claimed the British government owed that amount for an unfulfilled arms deal. The Shah of Iran purchased 1,750 vehicles, tanks and other weapons from the United Kingdom in the 1970s, but London never delivered the weapons because of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that toppled the Shah. The order was canceled even though the previous Iranian government had paid for it in advance, Blaze media reported.
“After highly complex and exhaustive negotiations, the more than 40-year-old debt between the International Military Services and the Ministry of Defense of Iran has now been settled,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement to Parliament.
“Great to see both Anoosheh and Nazanin in such good spirits. An emotional moment for both families as they welcome them home,” Truss tweeted.
Richard Ratcliffe had previously accused Iran of using his wife as a political hostage and a pawn in the country’s dispute over the debt. The British government has denied that the two issues are related.
Ratcliffe has tirelessly protested and advocated for his wife’s release in recent years and has also carried out hunger strikes in solidarity with his wife’s deteriorating physical condition.
“The release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, and the furlough of Morad Tahbaz are huge achievements for British diplomacy,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a tweet. “I pay tribute to the tireless efforts of those who have worked for six years to make today’s events possible.”