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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says 'she should have been freed six years ago'

The recently released British-Iranian national says her 'freedom is never going to be complete' until prisoners in Iran are reunited with their families
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was freed from Iran, after landing at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, England, 17 March 2022. (AFP)

British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe said on Monday her release should not have taken this long, days after returning to the UK from Iran where she spent six years in detention. 

At a press conference, Zaghari-Ratcliffe said, “What’s happened now should have happened six years ago... I shouldn’t have been in prison for six years," adding her journey back to the UK was “tough”.

'I was told many times that we're going to get you home, but that never happened. So there was a time that I said, you know what, I'm not going to even trust you'

- Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

"I don't agree with Richard [Ratcliffe] on thanking the foreign secretary, because I have seen five foreign secretaries over the course of the six years," she added, referring to her husband who spent years campaigning for her release.

"I was told many times that we're going to get you home, but that never happened. So there was a time that I said, you know what, I'm not going to even trust you," she said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were reunited with their families in the UK last week after years of campaigning to have them released from Iran. 

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Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the philanthropic arm of the Thomson Reuters news and data agency, was arrested in Tehran on a visit to family in 2016, accused of plotting to overthrow the regime. 

Ashoori, a retired engineer from southeast London, was arrested in 2017 and jailed for 10 years on charges of spying for Israel.

Both families believe they were being held as political prisoners until a debt between Britain and Iran was settled.

Their release on Wednesday came as the British government confirmed it had paid a longstanding debt over a cancelled defence contract, and as major powers inch closer to renewing the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna. 

'Freedom is never going to be complete'

During the press conference, Zaghari-Ratcliffe called for others "unjustly detained" in Iran to be released. 

“I believe that the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete until such time that all of us who are unjustly detained in Iran are reunited with our families. To begin with, Morad [Tahbaz], but also the other dual nationals, members of religious groups, or prisoners of conscience.

“If I have been in prison for six years, there are so many other people that we don’t know their names who have been suffering in prison in Iran,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe said. 

Iran: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri reunited with families in UK
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Roxanne Tahbaz, the eldest daughter of the US-British-Iranian national Morad Tahbaz, also joined the press conference. 

Morad Tahbaz was one of eight conservationists, all members of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, arrested in Iran in January 2018. 

Authorities accused the members of collecting classified information about Iran under the pretext of carrying out environmental and scientific projects. 

Despite denying all charges, members were sentenced to prison in November 2019 under terms that ranged from four to 10 years.

Tahbaz, who was released from prison the same day as Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori, believed, along with his family, that it would mean he too would be able to fly home. 

However, 48 hours later, Tahbaz was returned to jail, where he is currently on hunger strike and has been moved to a hotel. 

During the press conference, Roxanne told members of the press that she did not know what was currently being negotiated by the Foreign Office.
She explained that they were told that her father would be released on an indefinite furlough and that her mother’s travel ban would be lifted, but that was not the case. 

The Foreign Office has said they will continue to lobby Iran for Tahbaz to be released. 

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