Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has ankle tag removed following five-year detention in Iran

7 March 2021, 12:21 | Updated: 7 March 2021, 13:57

Dual national Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, has been held in Iran since 2016
Dual national Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, has been held in Iran since 2016. Picture: PA

By Megan White

British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had her ankle tag removed following her five-year detention in Iran but has been summoned to court next week.

Dual national Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, has been held in Iran since 2016, when she was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

She was arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport while taking her young daughter Gabriella to see her parents in April 2016.

The charity worker, who was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation at the time of her arrest, strongly denies the charges and rights groups say she was jailed with no evidence and her trial was unfair.

Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency where Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family live, said the mother has had her ankle tag removed, but has been summoned to court next Sunday.

She tweeted: "I have been in touch with Nazanin's family. Some news: 1) Thankfully her ankle tag has been removed. Her first trip will be to see her grandmother. 2) Less positive - she has been summoned once again to court next Sunday."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe should be allowed to return to the UK as soon as possible, and described Iran's treatment of her as "intolerable".

Mr Raab, in a statement from the Foreign Office, said the Government would do "all we can" to reunite Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her family in the UK.

He said: "We welcome the removal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's ankle tag, but Iran continues 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 will continue to do all we can to achieve this.

"We have relayed to the Iranian authorities in the strongest possible terms that her continued confinement is unacceptable."

Her lawyer Hojjat Kermani told Iranian website Emtedad: “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."

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been out of Evin prison since last spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has been held under house arrest at her parents' house in Tehran.

The UK has been locked in a high-profile diplomatic tussle over Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detention and the UK Government has afforded her diplomatic protection, arguing she is innocent and that her treatment by Iran failed to meet obligations under international law.

Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe has been used as a political pawn, according to Nobel Laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, and civil rights groups like Amnesty International say her trial was unfair and she was jailed with no evidence.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement: "The Foreign Secretary and FCDO remain in close contact with Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, and continue to provide our support.

"We do not accept Iran detaining dual British nationals as diplomatic leverage. The regime must end its arbitrary detention of all dual British nationals.

"We continue to do everything we can to secure the release of arbitrarily detained dual British nationals so that they can be reunited with their loved ones."

Here is a timeline of the key events since Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison in Iran.

- April 3 2016: The mother-of-one is detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday visit to Iran where she showed her daughter Gabriella to her parents.

- July 12 2016: Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, delivers letters to Downing Street for outgoing prime minister David Cameron and his replacement Theresa May on his wife's 100th day in custody. He says it is "astonishing" no British minister has publicly criticised Tehran for arresting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

- September 9 2016: Mr Ratcliffe says his wife has been jailed for five years following a conviction on unspecified "national security-related" offences - a sentence he describes as "a punishment without a crime".

- April 24 2017: The family of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe say she has lost the final stage of her appeal against the sentence.

- November 6 2017: It is feared Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe may face a further period of imprisonment because of remarks made by then-foreign secretary Boris Johnson. Mr Johnson told a parliamentary committee the previous week that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was working in Tehran training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016. Four days later, she was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing, where the foreign secretary's comments were cited as proof that she was engaged in "propaganda against the regime".

- November 7 2017: It is announced that Mr Johnson told his Iranian counterpart in a phone call that his comments to a Commons committee provide "no justifiable basis" for further legal action against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. A Foreign Office spokesman says Mr Johnson now accepts that he "could have been clearer" when he told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the British woman had been training journalists in Iran at the time of her arrest.

- December 12 2017: Mr Johnson said he and his Iranian counterpart spoke "frankly" regarding the case of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, during talks in Tehran.

- May 21 2018: Mr Ratcliffe says his wife has been told to expect another conviction after appearing in court over a new "invented" charge.

- August 3 2018: New foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt pledges to do everything possible to secure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release, after talks with Mr Ratcliffe.

- August 23 2018: Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is given temporary release from prison for three days and her husband says it feels like "home is one step closer". She returns to prison three days later.

- September 26 2018: Mrs May and Mr Hunt ramp up pressure on Iran to release the charity worker during talks in New York. The PM tells Iranian president Hassan Rouhani she has "serious concerns" about the jailing of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

- June 15 2019: Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe begins another hunger strike, this time lasting 15 days. She is joined, in a show of solidarity, by her husband, who strikes outside the Iranian Embassy in London.

- June 24 2019: Mr Johnson, who came under fire as foreign secretary for his comments about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case in 2017, becomes Prime Minister. Dominic Raab replaces Mr Hunt as Foreign Secretary.

- September 23 2019: Mr Ratcliffe says Mr Johnson can make amends for his failings in his incarcerated wife's case by telling Iran's president "enough is enough" and securing her release.

- October 10 2019: The couple's daughter, Gabriella, returns to the UK after more than three years living in the Middle East. The child, who is now five years old, had been living with her grandparents in Tehran since her mother was arrested.

- January 3 2020: A US air strike kills Iran's top military chief, General Quassem Soleimani. Mr Ratcliffe says he is worried about his wife, and tells ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I sit here partly worried for what that means for Nazanin, partly worried what that means for my in-laws, sat in their ordinary living room in Tehran where they're all really worried."

- February 29 2020: Mr Ratcliffe says he believes his wife has contracted coronavirus in prison as he expresses concern at the jail's "refusal to test her".

- March 17 2020: Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is temporarily freed from jail. She says she is "happy to be out, even with the ankle tag" and can only go within 300 metres of her parents' home.

- March 28 2020: Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's temporary prison release is extended to April 18 and Mr Ratcliffe says his wife's file has been put forward to the Iranian prosecutor general to be considered for clemency.

- April 21 2020: After a delay, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's prison release is extended again for around one month.

- May 20 2020: Mr Ratcliffe says his wife's release has been extended indefinitely until there is a decision on her clemency.

- September 8 2020: Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe appears before a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Court in Tehran, where she faces a new charge.

- March 7 2021: On the day Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence is due to come to an end, her constituency MP Tulip Siddiq reveals she has had her electronic tag removed but faces a new court date.