Updated Mar 17, 2022 - World

Iran releases 2 British nationals detained for years

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was freed from Iran, gestures after landing at RAF Brize Norton on March 17, 2022 in Brize Norton, England.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was freed from Iran, after landing at RAF Brize Norton in England on Thursday.Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri, two British-Iranian dual nationals, arrived in the U.K. on Thursday, after being released from Iran following years in detention.

Why it matters: Their release comes amid reports that an agreement to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could be close.

  • Iranian state media said the U.K. had "settled a long-overdue debt of $530 million to Tehran," presumably for tanks ordered before the 1979 Islamic Revolution that were never delivered, per AP.
  • Tulip Siddiq, a British member of Parliament, tweeted a photo of her constituent Zaghari-Ratcliffe being reunited with her husband and daughter, who was 22 months old when her mother was detained. "Richard, Nazanin and Gabriella finally reunited after 6 long years," she wrote.

Details: Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was given back her passport over the weekend, raising hopes that she'd be able to leave the country.

  • In 2019, Ashouri was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of spying and two years for "acquiring illegitimate wealth," per Reuters.

What they're saying: "I am very pleased to confirm that the unfair detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori in Iran has ended today, and they will now return to the UK," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a Twitter post announcing their return on Wednesday.

  • "The UK has worked intensively to secure their release and I am delighted they will be reunited with their families and loved ones," he added.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper