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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe freed temporarily from jail in Tehran amid COVID-19 outbreak, UK MPs say

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe   -   Copyright  AP
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British-Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been freed temporarily from jail in Tehran amid the COVID-19 outbreak, UK MPs say.

The release was confirmed by British foreign affairs minister Dominic Raab and her constituency MP, Tulip Siddiq.

"Nazanin was freed this afternoon temporarily for two weeks until April 4," added her husband, Richard Ratcliffe in a statement.

She must wear an ankle bracelet during her liberation, he added.

Convicted of spying in 2016

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, was working for Thomson Reuters Foundation, a UK-based media charity, when she was arrested in April 2016 as she left Iran. She had been in the country taking her 22-month-old daughter to visit family.

Accused of seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime, she was sentenced to five years in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

According to Amnesty International support campaign, "the Iranian authorities have no evidence to support this claim".

Working for two media charities as an administrative assistant (BBC Media Action and Thomson Reuters Foundation), the charges against her were "guilty of membership of an illegal group", which the NGO fighting for human rights denounced.

"Since she has committed no crime, Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience – someone who’s imprisoned just for using their human rights like free speech and freedom of association," can be read on Amnesty's campaign.

The separation from her family and her incarceration conditions led her to write a suicide letter, then was sent to a psychiatric ward in 2016.

A British-Iranian diplomatic question

The UK government has called for Nazanin’s freedom on several occasions, and she was given diplomatic protection on 7 March 2019.

In a statement, Raab showed some relief and declared: "We urge the regime to ensure she receives any necessary medical care. While this is a welcome step, we urge the government now to release all UK dual nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran, and enable them to return to their families in the UK."

Her release comes after a decision from the Iranian government to temporarily release from jail 85,000 prisoners in Tehran because of the coronavirus outbreak, AFP added.

In a statement released on Tuesday, she said: “I am so happy to be out. Even with the ankle tag, I am so happy. Being out is so much better than being in – if you knew what hell this place is. It is mental. Let us hope it will be the beginning of coming home," AFP reported.

The death toll in Iran saw another 13 per cent increase Tuesday according to AP.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the virus had killed 135 more people in Iran, raising the overall death toll to 988.

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