Iran’s release of the British-Iranian nationals Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been greeted with joy by their families, with Richard Ratcliffe saying: “Homecoming is a journey, not an arrival.”
Mr Ratcliffe, who has been at the forefront of campaigning for his wife’s release since she was imprisoned in Tehran after going there to visit family, told broadcasters that there would have to be a recovery process, adding: “You can’t get back the time that’s gone.”
Speaking alongside the couple’s seven-year-old daughter, Gabriella, he added: “I don’t think it will just be today, there will be a whole process, and hopefully we’ll look back in years to come and just be a normal family and this will be a chapter in our lives, but there are many more chapters to come.”
He also expressed thanks for the help given by UK government and foreign office officials, along with “ministers at different points” and MPs during the campaign to bring his wife back to the UK.
He added: “It has been a tough journey for all of us for lots of different reasons and I’m really grateful for the grace, patience and stoicism that they have shown to get Nazanin home.”
He and Gabriella had already chosen the toys that she was going to bring to meet her mother when the plane carrying her back from Iran landed in Britain.
Screengrab from a tweet posted by Badr Albusaidi of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, arriving in Oman after being released from jail in Iran. Photograph: Badr Albusaidi/PA Wire
Mr Ashoori’s family, meanwhile, said they were “delighted” he had been released from Iran and was returning to the UK.
The 68-year-old, a retired civil engineer, was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother in Tehran, and was detained in Evin prison.
He was returning to the UK along with Zaghari-Ratcliffe after the UK government settled a £400 million debt owed to Iran.
A statement from Mr Ashoori’s family said: “We are delighted to confirm that Anoosheh has been released and will be returning to the UK today after five long years.
“This day has been a long time coming, and we are thankful for the efforts of everyone involved in bringing Anoosheh home.”
They added that it had been 1,672 days since the “family’s foundations were rocked” when he was detained and taken away from them. “Now, we can look forward to rebuilding those same foundations with our cornerstone back in place,” the statement added.
Despite living in the UK for 20 years, the father and husband was later convicted of spying for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and sentenced to prison for 10 years.
Both Mr Ashoori and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe have always protested their innocence.
However, there was a very different reaction from the family of a third dual national, Morad Tahbaz, a British-American businessman born in Hammersmith, London, who also has Iranian citizenship. He has been released from prison on furlough.
His sister, Taraneh, told the World at One on BBC Radio 4 that the family were “absolutely and utterly devastated” that the only British-born hostage in Tehran was “being left behind”.
She added: “As far as a hostage goes he has been there under trumped-up charges and he was, as Nazanin was, visiting his family. He is an environmentalist, a conservationist who was taken hostage.”
She said that her brother was very unwell. The family had had to rely on the media for updates about his situation, she said.
UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, said on Twitter that Tahbaz had been released from prison “on furlough” and that the UK government would continue to work to secure his departure from Iran. – Guardian