Two British-Iranians who spent years detained in Iranian custody have been allowed to return to the United Kingdom amid reports a new nuclear agreement could soon come to fruition, Reuters reported.
Aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in 2016 and charged with plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment, which her family denied, while dual national Anousheh Ashouri was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019 for spying for Israel’s Mossad, as well as two years for “acquiring illegitimate wealth,” according to Iran’s judiciary, Reuters reported.
Both British nationals left Iran late Wednesday on a plane bound for the United Kingdom, CNN reported.
“I am very pleased to confirm that the unfair detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori in Iran has ended today, and they will now return to the UK,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet. “The UK has worked intensively to secure their release and I am delighted they will be reunited with their families and loved ones.”
I am very pleased to confirm that the unfair detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori in Iran has ended today, and they will now return to the UK.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 16, 2022
Iran said in February amid months-long talks of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that it was ready for a prisoner swap in exchange for the unblocking of frozen assets and the release of Iranians held in Western jails, Reuters reported. The talks were temporarily stalled after last-minute demands from Russia in the fall of 2021.
Britain agreed to settle a decades-old debt to Iran in exchange for the release of the British nationals, the Associated Press reported. It will pay Iran $515.5 million, but the money will be ring-fenced so it can only be used for humanitarian purposes.
“No one can begin to imagine what Nazanin has endured throughout the past tortuous six years; denied her freedoms, separated from her husband and young child, battling significant illness, thrown in solitary confinement,” Antonio Zappulla, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe works, said in a statement, the AP reported.
“An innocent victim of an international dispute, Nazanin has been one of many used as political pawns. Her treatment has been utterly inhumane,” he said.
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