The British government has secured the release of two prisoners, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri, after London reportedly paid off a long-standing debt of nearly £400million to Tehran on Tuesday. The payment was linked to the sale of battle tanks to the Shah before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a deal that London failed to honor after the Shah’s government was replaced by that of Ayatollah Khomeini.
After spending almost six years in prison, Zaghari-Ratcliffe boarded a plane in Tehran bound for Muscat, from where she will fly to Oxfordshire on a jet chartered by the British government . Her passport was returned to her over the weekend, according to her family’s lawyer, Hojjat Kermani, and Tehran confirmed that she and Ashouri had been released.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a former Reuters project manager, was arrested in April 2016 for “plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime.” After spending most of her sentence in Evin prison in Tehran, she was released in March 2020 to serve the remainder under house arrest during the Covid-19 pandemic and spent the next two years confined to the home of his parents with an electronic ankle monitor. However, upon her scheduled release from house arrest last March, she was later summoned to court and found guilty of “propaganda against the regime.”
Ashouri was sentenced to 10 years in prison for spying for Israel and another two years for “acquire illegitimate wealth”. However, the court took pity on him due to his “age and physical conditionaccording to judiciary spokesman Zabihollah Khodayian, letting him go earlier than expected.
A third binational, Morad Tahbaz, was released from prison but his departure from Iran has not yet been assured.
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Although neither Tehran nor London has directly confirmed that the debt payment was directly linked to the release of the prisoners, state media has previously claimed that they will be freed after the sum originally paid to the British military contractor International Military Services Ltd. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss credited “tenacious and creative British diplomacyfor the pair’s outing, citing “years of hard work and dedication from our brilliant diplomats,” specifically “intensive efforts over the past six months.”
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