Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe takes 'baby steps to freedom' as prison leave extended by two weeks

29 March 2020, 11:28

Nazanin Zhagari Ratcliffe has been granted an extra two weeks out of prison due to coronavirus
Nazanin Zhagari Ratcliffe has been granted an extra two weeks out of prison due to coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said her temporary leave from prison in Iran has been extended by two weeks

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife's father had been told her temporary release from Evin prison in Tehran - granted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic - had been extended by two weeks and will now run until April 18.

The British-Iranian mother has been living in relative isolation at her parents' house in Tehran while the country gets to grips with the outbreak.

She has to wear an ankle tag during the furlough, and can only go within a 300-metre range of her parents' home.

Mr Ratcliffe added: "I spoke to her yesterday and her mood was pretty upbeat. Her dad has been down to the prosecutor's office and got told her furlough has been extended for a couple of weeks so huge relief for her, huge relief for all of us.

"It's a first step forward and we'll see where it goes from here. Generally her health is much better now she is out of prison, clearly been very tense the last few days. Tensing up physically on her neck. It was a lovely phone call yesterday."

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Nazanin has to wear an ankle tag during the furlough, and can only go within a 300-metre range of her parents' home.
Nazanin has to wear an ankle tag during the furlough, and can only go within a 300-metre range of her parents' home. Picture: PA

Mr Ratcliffe added that his wife's file has been put forward to the Iranian Prosecutor General to be considered for clemency.

He said he felt as though his wife had taken "baby steps" towards freedom, adding: "We've been here before, thinking we are on the precipice of freedom.

"I think with Iran, things can go quite opaque and obscure and you need to keep pushing, so we'll see what happens, and we'll see what's being said.

"I don't think it's going to be easy to tell if she's out any time soon. My expectation is it's baby steps to freedom."

Iran is among the countries worst-affected by Covid-19 - reporting over 29,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,200 deaths from the disease.

Richard Ratcliffe has been fighting for his wife's release since she was jailed in 2016
Richard Ratcliffe has been fighting for his wife's release since she was jailed in 2016. Picture: PA
She was arrested whilst traveling with daughter Gabriella (pictured outside Downing Street recently)
She was arrested whilst traveling with daughter Gabriella (pictured outside Downing Street recently). Picture: PA

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the news on Twitter - calling it a "glimmer of hope amidst the darkness".

"Let's pray that this remarkable family are reunited soon," he added.

The family's MP Tulip Siddiq tweeted that every day Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is out of prison is "better than the alternative".

But she said that the main focus remained "getting her home and away from the danger of coronavirus in Iran as soon as possible".

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport while travelling to show to see her parents with her young daughter, Gabriella, in April 2016.

She was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government.

She was later afforded diplomatic protection by the UK Government, which argues that she is innocent and that her treatment by Iran failed to meet obligations under international law.

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