UK Lawmaker: British-Iranian Detainee at Airport to Leave Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who has been detained in Iran for nearly six years, is at Tehran’s airport preparing to leave the country, a U.K. lawmaker said Wednesday.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given back her British passport over the weekend, raising hopes that her long ordeal was coming to a close.

“Nazanin is at the airport in Tehran and on her way home,” tweeted U.K. lawmaker Tulip Siddiq, who represents Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s constituency and has tirelessly pressed for her release. “I came into politics to make a difference, and right now I’m feeling like I have.”

Iranian state television in an on-air scrolling text announced Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “handed over to the British government,” without elaborating. Iran’s English-language broadcaster Press TV later described Zaghari-Ratcliffe as “leaving Tehran after serving jail term.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release comes after the semiofficial Fars news agency suggested she’d be released as the British government had paid Iran about $530 million. Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid the sum, in 400 million British pounds, for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered.

A lawyer representing Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Tehran couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is visiting the Middle East, had confirmed earlier that a negotiating team was at work in Tehran to free Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe served five years in prison. She was later convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny. She had been held under house arrest and unable to leave the country since her release from prison.

While employed at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, she was taken into custody at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family.

Rights groups accuse Iran of holding dual-nationals as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West, something Tehran denies. Iran doesn’t recognize dual nationalities, so detainees like Zaghari-Ratcliffe can’t receive consular assistance. A U.N. panel has criticized what it describes as “an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals” in Iran.