British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been granted weekend furlough from Iran's notorious Evin prison, where she's been detained since September of 2016. She was released to spend time with her family, including her 4-year-old daughter Gabriella, and is supposed to return to prison on Sunday. Both Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her father had to agree to certain terms- she is forbidden from giving media interviews, she cannot visit any foreign embassy, and she must not attempt to leave Iran.
UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt responded to the news from New York, where he's visiting the UN.
"It's extremely positive and we want to thank the Iranian authorities for what they're doing whilst not forgetting that she should not be in prison in the first place," he said. "Nazanin is innocent. She has a 4-year-old daughter Gabriella. She has a devoted husband. She has friends in both Iran and the UK and frankly every day that she is in prison is a reminder to the whole world of a gross injustice. So we call on the Iranian authorities to capitalize on the goodwill from today's announcement by going the whole way and releasing Nazanin and allowing her to go back to her family."
Zaghari-Ratcliffe travelled to Iran in 2016 on a personal visit, intending to introduce her young daughter to her family there. She was arrested and convicted on espionage charges, which she denies. Her daughter was two at the time- her passport was taken when her mother was imprisoned, and she has remained with family in Iran since.
The family was travelling to a family holiday celebration outside of Tehran when they got the news that Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released. They were able to return to pick her up, and attend the family gathering with her.
"I was so emotional to see my grandmother today," she said in comments issued by the Free Nazanin campaign. "I cried so much. I felt so overwhelmed."
The best part of the happy surprise according to her was the chance to spend time with Gabriella after two years apart.
"It will be just awesome for Gabriella to have mummy home finally. We can play with her dolls 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's husband, Richard Ratcliffe has been campaigning for her release since she was first imprisoned. He said there was some indication that this would happen, but there had been a number of "false dawns."
There has been no clear statement from Iranian authorities about why Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released, but some have speculated it could be a conciliatory gesture to mark the Islamic festival of Eid. Others say that Jeremy Hunt's installation as new UK foreign secretary has put more diplomatic pressure on from the UK side. Richard Ratcliffe is hopeful this will be the beginning of the end.
"I think the very next steps are to see if we can extend the furlough beyond three days," he said. "It's quite standard for it to be expanded, but it's not guaranteed... I'll be very clear that I'll keep campaigning until she's home."