British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has spent more than 18 months in an Iranian prison, could be ‘eligible for early release’.
According to her husband Richard Ratcliffe, the 37-year-old charity worker was told the news by her Iranian lawyer, with her case marked on the Iranian judiciary database as “eligible for early release”.
Ratcliffe – who has been running a campaign for her release from the UK – called the reported development “terrific news”.
He told Sky News this morning: “Nazanin was yesterday visited by her lawyer and her lawyer said that on the database – a kind of electronic case management system that they have in the judiciary – it now marks her case as being eligible for release.
“Before it said she was a closed case. That’s happened in the last couple of days.”
Ratcliffe added: “It [her return home] feels a lot closer today than it did yesterday.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested as she waited for a return flight to Britain after a holiday in Iran in April 2016 after being accused of spying, which she denies.
She spent the first eight months in solitary confinement.
Meanwhile, her daughter Gabriella – now three – has had her passport confiscated and is stuck in Iran with her grandparents. She has forgotten all the English sher had previously learned.
News that Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released before the end of her five year sentence comes after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson travelled to Tehran earlier this month for talks with the Iranian President in what was described as a “worthwhile visit”.
It has been feared that the mother-of-one’s perilous situation had been made worse when Johnson erroneously suggested to parliament she had been in the country training journalists.
But on December 10 Ratcliffe hailed the “first ripple of freedom” after her court appearance due for that day was postponed.
He said this morning that there had been “incremental improvement” in the case since Johnson’s visit.
After speaking with Ratcliffe this morning, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq said: “This news is a glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel for my constituents Richard, Nazanin and Gabriella.
“It has given Nazanin a real boost of positive energy, and now we wait impatiently to see what happens next.”
She added: “Although we do not want to celebrate prematurely, it would be the perfect Christmas gift to see Nazanin released and back with her family where she belongs.”
A spokesperson from the Foreign Office said on Thursday: “We remain very concerned about all our dual nationals detained in Iran, and will continue to make decisions in line with what we believe will produce the best outcomes in their cases.”