Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe sent back to prison as release are hopes dashed

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R) embracing her daughter Gabriella in Damavand, Iran following her release from prison for three days. Picture: Free Nazanin campaign / AFP / Getty Images.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R) embracing her daughter Gabriella in Damavand, Iran following her release from prison for three days. Picture: Free Nazanin campaign / AFP / Getty Images.
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Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has bid goodbye to her daughter and voluntarily returned to prison in Iran after an emotional family reunion.

Richard Ratcliffe said his wife’s lawyer had been attempting to get her three-day release from Evin prison on furlough increased to a longer period yesterday.

The British-Iranian mother was released from the Tehran jail on Thursday and has been staying with family outside the capital.

However, after a “day of mixed messages” the request for an extension was not granted and she was told she must return by sunset, her husband said.

The prosecutors office said she would need to return “for a few days or a week” to wait for a key signature, Mr Ratcliffe said.

She decided to go back voluntarily with her “head held high” rather than be “dragged out of the house in front of her baby”, he said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, cried when she realised her mother was leaving.

He said: “She [Nazanin] promised Gabriella that the next time she saw her it would be forever not just for a few days, for proper freedom, not just for furlough.

“And next time they will go back to London to be with daddy.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north London, was sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying by Tehran’s Islamist regime.

She denies the allegation and said she was on holiday in Iran to allow her daughter to spend time with relatives there.

Gabriella has been staying with family since Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was detained at Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016.

Mr Ratcliffe said his wife was initially told she did not have to return to prison yesterday and that her extension request had been authorised.

She was later told the permit had not been signed off and must return to prison “for a few days or a week” while this was sorted.

Mr Ratcliffe said the British embassy had been informed of the decision but had reported hearing no mention of the charity worker needing to return. Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “This is a crushing disappointment. There were real hopes that not only would her three-day furlough be extended, but that her permanent and unconditional release was also just around the corner.”