LONDON (AP) — Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who has been detained in Iran for nearly six years, is at Tehran’s airport preparing to leave the country, a U.K. lawmaker said Wednesday. Iranian state media reported that Britain had “settled a long-overdue debt” of $530 million.
Zaghari Ratcliffe got her British passport back over the weekend. It raised hope that her prolonged ordeal would be ending.
“Nazanin is at the airport in Tehran and on her way home,” tweeted U.K. lawmaker Tulip Siddiq, who represents Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s constituency and has tirelessly pressed for her release. “I came into politics to make a difference, and right now I’m feeling like I have.’’
Iranian state media said that Britain had “settled a long-overdue debt of $530 million to Tehran.” Iran’s English-language broadcaster Press TV made the announcement as Zaghari-Ratcliffe was allowed to travel to the airport with British officials.
Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency earlier suggested she’d be released after the British government had paid Iran some $530 million. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution the Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had paid 400 million British pounds for the Chieftain tanks which were never delivered.
A lawyer representing Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Tehran couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Boris Johnson (British Prime Minister) is currently in the Middle East and confirmed that an Iranian negotiating team had been at work to liberate Zaghari Ratcliffe.
Zaghari Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years imprisonment. She was later convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny. After her release from prison, she had been placed under house arrest. She was unable to travel outside the country.
While employed at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, she was taken into custody at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family.
Iran is accused by rights groups of using dual-nationals to bargain with Western countries for influence or money. Tehran refutes this accusation. Iran doesn’t recognize dual nationalities, so detainees like Zaghari-Ratcliffe can’t receive consular assistance. A U.N. panel has criticized what it describes as “an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals” in Iran.
Although her family had felt optimistic about the transfer of her passport, they were skeptical at the good news.
“We found out about an hour ago that Nazanin had been picked up and taken to the airport with her parents. She is still actually under Iranian control in the airport,” her sister-in-law, Rebecca Ratcliffe told the BBC. “She is still not free but it definitely feels she is about to be.”