A British-Iranian woman jailed in Tehran for more than two years for allegedly plotting to overthrow Iran’s government has been released for three days.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has vehemently denied the allegations against her, was reunited with family members – including her four-year-old daughter – after being freed from the capital’s Evin Prison.
The “Free Nazanin” campaign group, run by her husband Richard Ratcliffe, welcomed the temporary release but called for her permanent freedom.
“Furlough is not full freedom – we want her home, not just on holiday from prison – but it is still such a good step. We will keep campaigning until she is home in the UK,” the Free Nazanin group said in a statement on Facebook.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was warned not to attempt to leave the country while on temporary release, or conduct interviews with local or international media, it added.
Her lawyer will request an extended release on Saturday, according to the statement, the day before she is currently expected to return to jail.
There was no immediate comment on the case from Iranian authorities, but the country’s ambassador to the UK, Hamid Baeidinejad, described a photo showing Zaghari-Ratcliffe reuniting with her daughter as “lovely” in a post on Twitter.
‘Prisoner of conscience’
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 40-year-old Thomson Reuters Foundation employee, was jailed for five years in July 2016, three months after her initial arrest at Tehran airport as she was heading back to the UK.
She has frequently denied the sedition charge levelled against her, insisting she was in the country on a family visit with her daughter.
In May, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned to court without a lawyer present under a new charge of “spreading propaganda” against the government.
During the hearing, she was reportedly warned of an additional conviction and an extended jail sentence.
In a statement on Thursday, Amnesty International called for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “full and unconditional release”, describing her as “a prisoner of conscience who should never have been jailed in the first place”.
The rights group’s call was echoed by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said in a post on Twitter that efforts to win a permanent release for Zaghari-Ratcliffe would continue.
“Really good news that Nazanin has been released on furlough, credit to tireless campaigning by husband Richard and her friends. But being in prison at all is gross injustice,” he said on Thursday.
Hunt’s predecessor Boris Johnson attracted criticism for appearing to jeopardise Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case last year when he suggested at a parliamentary hearing in November 2017 she had been training journalists in Iran prior to her arrest.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Iran has arrested several dual nationals who have travelled to the country in recent years.
“The jump in prosecutions of Iranian dual nationals appears to reflect efforts by government hard-liners to keep Iran isolated from the global community,” HRW’s Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whiston said in September 2016.
“Individuals should not have to suffer unjust prison terms because of a country’s internal politics.”