Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori have been released from Iranian prisons and allowed to return to their homes and families in the United Kingdom. They landed in England on Thursday morning.
The two walked across the tarmac together, waving to photographers, before entering the airport terminal for a private reunion with their families.
44-year-old Zaghari-Ratcliffe was born in Iran but later moved to the UK where she married her British husband, Richard Ratcliffe, in 2009. In 2014, their daughter Gabriella was born, and when Nazanin traveled to Iran on one of her regular visits to her parents in 2016, she was arrested by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and charged with plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, a charge she always denied. She was held in Iran’s Evin prison for almost five years while her husband campaigned ceaselessly for her release. Now she has been reunited with him and her seven-year-old daughter.
67-year-old Anoosheh Ashoori is a British-Iranian businessman who was arrested in 2017 when he returned to Iran on a visit to his mother. In 2019 he was charged with “spying for Israel’s Mossad” and “acquiring illegitimate wealth,” and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He denied both charges.
According to Amnesty International UK, Ashoori was “subjected to torture, repeatedly interrogated without a lawyer present, and forced to sign ‘confessions’ while sleep-deprived.”
Ashoori’s wife, who lives in London, previously said she feared her husband had not a “hope in hell” of being released, adding that he had twice attempted suicide twice and had also gone on a 17-day hunger strike.
A third British detainee, Morad Tahbaz, has yet to be released from Iran, where he is under house arrest. According to British sources, his release is complicated by the fact that he has U.S. citizenship. Tahbaz, a conservationist, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “contacts with the U.S. enemy government,” charges which he denies.
The UK government has agreed to pay a £393.8 million debt to the Iranian government in order to secure the release of the two hostages. The Iranian government had long claimed its right to the money, which was paid by the Shah’s regime to the United Kingdom for an order of Chieftain tanks, which was cancelled after the Islamic Revolution. According to the British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, repayment of the debt was repeatedly stymied by international sanctions on Iran, and the funds now being transferred have therefore been earmarked for “humanitarian purposes.”