Iranian authorities return British passport to detained aid worker, Labor MP says

Detained charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has obtained her British passport back from the Iranian authorities, a Member of Parliament has said – giving hope that she may soon be released.

The development is coming while British negotiating teams are in Tehran amid questions of status The British government’s debt of £ 400m to Iran, which relates to an unfulfilled military contract, signed in 1979, to supply 1,500 tanks.

Iranian officials have not commented on local reports claiming Britain has paid the money.

Tulip Siddiq, Labor MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, tweeted: “I am very happy to say that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has got his British passport back.

“She is still in her family’s home in Tehran. I also understand that there is a British negotiating team in Tehran right now. I will continue to send updates as I get them.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 43, of Hampstead, north-west London, was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of national security charges in which authorities claimed she was plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

The British-Iranian dual citizen who had taken his daughter Gabriella with him to visit his family in Tehran has always denied the accusation.

Her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable arm, said she had traveled to Iran in person and had not worked in the country.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe served most of his first sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison and was released in March 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic and placed under house arrest.

She was released from house arrest a year later only to be summoned to court on new charges of propaganda against Iran’s regime, having participated in a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in London in 2009. She denies the charge.

In April last year, she was sentenced to another year in prison and a one-year ban on entering abroad for driving continuously.

Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe lost its appeal against its second judgmentwho could start at any time.

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Hojjat Kermani, her local lawyer, said she still has a ban on leaving the country, adding: “I hope we will have good news soon.”

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International in the United Kingdom CEO, issued caution over the reports, saying there has been “false dawn after false dawn”.

He added: “We sincerely hope that these reports are correct. The detainees and their families have suffered for years and a solution can not come soon enough.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, spent 21 days on hunger strike last year in London to draw attention to his wife’s case. He has previously said he believes Tehran is using his wife as a bargaining chip.

In relation to the £ 400m debt, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said: “We are continuing to investigate the possibility of resolving this matter and will not comment further as discussions are ongoing.”

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