Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe temporarily freed from Iranian jail amid coronavirus outbreak

17 March 2020, 17:14

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been released temporarily by the Iranian authorities because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nazanin is being held in jail in Tehran after being convicted of spying in 2016, despite Iran failing to provide evidence for the charge.

She said: "I am so happy to be out. Even with the ankle tag, I am so happy. Being out is so much better than being in - if you knew what hell this place is. It is mental. Let us hope it will be the beginning of coming home."

Her husband Richard Radcliffe said unlike other prisioners given temporary release, his wife has to wear an ankle tag, which her parents had to hire from the authorities, and her movements will be restricted to 300 metres from her parents' home.

He said: "My feelings today have been all of a mix - pleased at the happiness for Nazanin and (their daughter) Gabriella, but fear this is a new drawn out game of chess. "

He added: "The issue now is to make it permanent and bring Nazanin home. It is one feeling to walk out of prison. It is completely different to walk back in. No one should be asked to go and be a hostage again. So we are watching carefully."

Following the temporary release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:

“I am relieved that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was today temporarily released into the care of her family in Iran. We urge the regime to ensure she receives any necessary medical care.

"While this is a welcome step, we urge the government now to release all UK dual nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran, and enable them to return to their families in the UK.”

Their MP Tulip Siddiq said: "We are pleased and relieved that Nazanin will be with her family rather than in jail at this time of terrible chaos and uncertainty.

"However, we have been here before and know from past experience that Nazanin will be treated like a prisoner in her own home. The UK Government must get reassurances from Iran that she won't be harassed or intimidated while on temporary release."

Last month, her husband said he believed his wife had contracted the virus while in jail.He later said a doctor had told her that her symptoms were consistent with the illness, but was unable to test her.The doctor reportedly went on to say her symptoms "had stabilised" and she would hopefully start to recover.

It comes as Iran temporarily freed around 85,000 prisoners as it continues to battle the world's third worst outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a spokesman for its judiciary.

In a statement on Tuesday, Gholamhossein Esmaili said the action was taken as "precautionary measures" were introduced "to confront the outbreak".

He also confirmed that up to half of those freed were "security-related prisoners".

It comes after a UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran asked last week for Tehran to temporarily release all political prisoners from its overcrowded and disease-stricken jails.

Iran is currently battling against the third worst outbreak of COVID-19, behind China and Italy.

There have, so far, been 14,991 cases confirmed Iran, with 853 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Globally, more than 182,000 people have contracted the virus, and more than 7,000 people have died.