Two British-Iranians Leave Tehran After Years In Prison
By RFE/RL's Radio Farda March 16, 2022
Two British-Iranians who have been held in Iran for years have left the country as Tehran and London settled a long-standing debt owed to Iran.
"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 U.K.," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet on March 16.
In 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taking her now 7-year-old daughter Gabriella to see her family when she was arrested and sentenced to five years in jail, spending four years in Tehran's notorious Evin prison and one under house arrest.
Ashoori was sentenced in 2019 to 10 years in prison after being convicted of spying for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and another two years for "acquiring illegitimate wealth."
Amnesty International says Ashoori was "arbitrarily detained" and subjected to torture, repeatedly interrogated without a lawyer present, and forced to sign "confessions" while sleep-deprived.
"The UK has worked intensively to secure their release and I am delighted they will be reunited with their families and loved ones," Johnson added.
Officials in Tehran confirmed a third jailed dual national, environmentalist and businessman Morad Tahbaz was released from prison on furlough to his house in Tehran.
Tahbaz was arrested in January 2018 during a crackdown on environmental activists. He and seven others were accused of gathering classified information under the guise of carrying out environmental projects.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment, though her family says she was told by the Iranian authorities that she was being detained because of Britain's failure to pay an outstanding debt of around $500 million to Iran for failing to deliver tanks that had been ordered decades earlier.
Iranian officials have said that Britain has not been able to pay the debt because of sanctions against Tehran.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on March 16 that the debt issue has been settled, "in full compliance with U.K. and international sanctions and all legal obligations."
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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