British-Iranian freed from jail temporarily

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Tehran, Aug 24 (IANS) Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years in jail in Iran for spying, has been temporarily released from prison for the first time in more than two years.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose plight has cast a shadow over Iran-UK relations, was given a three-day furlough on Thursday, taking her and her family by surprise, reports the Guardian.

She was arrested in April 2016 by members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards as she and her daughter were about to board a flight back to the UK following a visit to her family in Iran.

She was accused of attempting to orchestrate a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic Republic, spying and running “a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran”.

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Zaghari-Ratcliffe has since been reunited with her four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who has been in the care of her Iranian family since she was 22 months old.

“It will be just awesome for Gabriella to have mummy home finally,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe said, according to her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who remains in the UK.

“We can play with her doll’s house and she can show me her toys. The thought of brushing her hair and giving her a bath, of being able to take her to the park and feed her and sleep next to her – it just kills me. It is still so hard to believe.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was notified that her furlough was about to begin in the early hours of Thursday, while she was still in her nightclothes, and told that she had 10 minutes to get ready and leave.

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After passing through the prison gates, she borrowed a mobile phone from a stranger to tell her brother she had been released.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release is limited to three days – the standard period in the Iranian penal system – but could be extended, as in cases involving other political prisoners, the Guardian reported.

Her release comes after an extraordinary public campaign mounted by her husband that has made her case familiar throughout the UK.

Iran’s ambassador to the the UK welcomed the news.

–IANS

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