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Supporters rejoice at the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

16 March 2022

Alamy

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, and their daughter, Gabriella, outside the House of Parliament, on Wednesday, after hearing of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, and their daughter, Gabriella, outside the House of Parliament, on Wednesday, after hearing of Ms Zaghar...

SUPPORTERS of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Iran since 2016, expressed their delight and relief at the news of her release on Wednesday afternoon.

Pictures of a smiling Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe taken inside the plane and finally leaving Iran were widely shared across news outlets and social media on Wednesday. She will now be reunited with her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who has been tireless in his efforts to secure her freedom (News, 5 November 2021), and her seven-year-old daughter, Gabriella. “It’s going to be the beginning of a new life,” Mr Ratcliffe told the media when the news was confirmed.

The Zaghari-Ratcliffe family have been supported by their parish church, Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead, throughout her detention. A lighted candle burns in front of a picture of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family, and she has been prayed for daily ever since her arrest in 2016 on charges of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government — something that she has always denied.

Twitter/Tulip SiddiqA picture of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on a plane, on Wednesday, which was posted on Twitter by her MP, Tulip Siddiq

In the eucharist on Wednesday morning — when Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was still at Tehran airport, awaiting her release — the Vicar, the Revd Jonathan Kester, said: “We come together in cautious but great rejoicing that Nazanin is on the way home. And we pray that she will later be reunited with Richard and Gabriella here in this community in West Hampstead. We pray for her well-being.”

Once the news that she was on the plane home was confirmed, he described her release as “wonderful news”.

This was echoed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who wrote on Twitter: “Rejoicing in this wonderful news and praying for Nazanin and her family as they prepare to be reunited at long last,” and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who simply said: “What wonderful news!”

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, herself Iranian, spoke out strongly on behalf of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe in the House of Lords in December (News, 10 December), describing her as “a pawn in a political struggle between Britain and Iran”, and calling her detention “a terrible wrong” that must be put right.

“Absolutely wonderful,” Dr Francis-Dehqani said on Wednesday. “I cannot fully express how overjoyed I am by this news. My very best wishes to Nazanin and Richard and their family.”

Mr Ratcliffe told journalists on Wednesday that he and his daughter would really believe the news only when they saw “Mummy”. He thanked people up and down the country who had supported his campaign for her release, which included him going on hunger strike.

“Ours has been a cruel experience in some ways, but it’s also been an exposure to such a level of kindness and care,” he told the BBC. “This will be a chapter in our lives, but there are many more chapters to come.”

The Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, Tulip Siddiq, tweeted: “Nazanin is now in the air flying away from six years of hell in Iran. . . My heart goes out to Gabriella and Richard, as her long journey back home to them gets closer by the minute.”

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