Iran Releases British-Iranian Aid Worker Zaghari-Ratcliffe From House Arrest but Court Summons Looms
Iran has released British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from house arrest at the end of her five-year prison sentence, but she has been summoned to court again on another charge, her lawyer said on Sunday.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at a Tehran airport in April 2016 and later convicted of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment.
She served out most of her sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison, was released last March during the coronavirus pandemic, and kept under house arrest, but her movements were restricted and she was barred from leaving the country.
On Sunday the authorities removed her ankle tag.
“She was pardoned by Iran’s supreme leader last year, but spent the last year of her term under house arrest with electronic shackles tied to her feet. Now they’re cast off,” her lawyer Hojjat Kermani told an Iranian website. “She has been freed.”
Iran’s judiciary was not immediately available to comment about the release. Her family and the foundation, a charity that operates independently of media firm Thomson Reuters and its news subsidiary Reuters, deny the charge.
Kermani said a hearing for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s second case has been scheduled for March 14.
“In this case, she is accused of propaganda against the Islamic Republic’s system, for participating in a rally in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009, and giving [an] interview to the BBC Persian TV channel at the same time,” Kermani said.
He said he hoped that “this case will be closed at this stage, considering the previous investigation.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe told Sky News on Sunday that she was “pleased” her ankle tag had been removed, but said the news was “mixed” from Iran due to the court summons. Ratcliffe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Antonio Zappulla, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said the foundation was “delighted that her jail term was ended” and that she had told him she was “‘ecstatic’ to be able to sit in a café and have a coffee.”
“Nazanin must be given her freedom, as was promised.”
British foreign minister Dominic Raab welcomed the removal of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag, but said Iran continued to put her and her family through a “cruel and an intolerable ordeal.”
“She must be released permanently so she can return to her family in the UK. We have relayed to the Iranian authorities in the strongest possible terms that her continued confinement is unacceptable,” Raab said in a statement.
Her lawyer told Iranian state TV he had no news on the status of her travel ban.
British lawmaker Tulip Siddiq said she had spoken to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family and that her first trip would be to see her grandmother.
The detentions of dozens of dual nationals and foreigners have complicated ties between Tehran and several European countries including Germany, France, and Britain — all parties to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers.
The release comes as Iran and the United States are trying to revive the deal, which former US president Donald Trump abandoned in 2018 and then reimpose sanctions on Iran. Tehran responded by scaling down its compliance.