Jailed British mother could be freed by Iran in ‘prisoner swap’

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released from jail as part of a prisoner swap, Iran’s foreign minister has suggested.

The charity worker has been held in the country since being arrested at Tehran airport in 2016 over allegations she was involved in plans for “regime change”.

Efforts to secure her freedom by her husband Richard and the UK Foreign Office have proved futile.

But speaking at the Asia Society in New York, Javad Zarif presented a potential means by which she could finally be allowed to return her home in Hampstead, north London.

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Jailed British mother could be freed by Iran in 'prisoner swap'




‘We have exhausted every avenue’ with Iran

The minister said he felt sorry for the 41-year-old and claimed he had “done my best to help” – revealing that Iran could be willing to release her in exchange for Iranian nationals who are behind bars in the US and Australia.

Speaking in a video on the Asia Society website, Mr Zarif suggested: “So, what can I do as a foreign minister? And I put this offer on the table publicly now. Exchange them.”

Mr Zarif said there were Iranians in prison in the US and Australia on “phoney” charges, including one woman who is said to have given birth while in her cell.

More from Nazanin Zaghari-ratcliffe

On the possibility of an exchange, he added: “I’m ready to do it. And I have authority to do it.”

Mr Zarif said he had floated the idea with the US government six months ago and had not heard back.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt previously said he had “exhausted every avenue” with Iran over the issue, and a Foreign Office spokesman “we remain concerned” about the “priority” case.

Jailed British mother could be freed by Iran in 'prisoner swap'
Image:
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Gabriella, daughter of jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

As it stands, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe still has plenty of time to go on the five-year sentence she is serving in Tehran.

Her trial by a revolutionary court in the capital was widely condemned as unfair and she strenuously denies the charges against her, with Mr Hunt granting her diplomatic protection.

But Tehran refuses to acknowledge her dual nationality and said the move by the foreign secretary was illegal.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested just as she was due to head back from a family holiday with her then 22-month-old daughter Gabriella.

Since being jailed, the mother-of-one has been on a hunger strike over her treatment and was said to have been left in terror after refusing to spy on Britain for Iran.