Nazanin almost freed by Iran three years ago but deal collapsed

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was almost freed by Iran three years ago but the deal collapsed… weeks after Boris Johnson tried to intervene in her case, new documentary claims

  • A BBC Panorama investigation allegedly uncovered details of deal made in 2017
  • Richard Ratcliffe said his wife had been due to return to the UK on December 28
  • Boris Johnson, then Foreign Secretary, made controversial comments almost two months before release date although exact reason deal failed is still unclear 

Jailed mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was on the brink of being freed by Iran in 2017 when a release deal collapsed, according to a BBC documentary.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said a date had been named for her return to the UK that year – December 28.

Although it is unclear why the deal fell through, almost two months before that date Boris Johnson, then Foreign Secretary, had made a widely criticised intervention in her case.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is a British-Iranian dual citizen, was initially detained in April 2016 and later sentenced to five years in jail for allegedly ‘plotting to topple the Iranian government’.

Jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella as a BBC investigation reveals Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was due to be released in December, 2017, before the alleged deal between Iran and the UK collapsed (file photo)

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured here wearing an ankle tag in March this year, is now under effective house arrest in Tehran due to the coronavirus pandemic

She claimed she was visiting the country so her parents could meet her young daughter, but Mr Johnson said ‘she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it’.

This undermined her defence and gave credence to claims by the suppressive Iranian regime that she was running a BBC journalism course aimed at ‘recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran’.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, who has served four years in jail and is now under effective house arrest in Tehran due to the coronavirus pandemic, once worked at the BBC in an administrative role.

Her employer in 2016, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said she was a charity worker.

It has long been claimed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held to force the UK into settling a multi-million pound dispute with Iran.

Both countries deny this but Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has said the Iranian authorities have told her in private that her release hinges on the money being returned.

Mr Ratcliffe believes his wife is being held by Iran as ‘diplomatic leverage’.

Details of the release deal were uncovered during a BBC Panorama investigation into the detention of westerners in Iran.

The programme airs tonight on BBC One at 7.30pm.

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