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Coronavirus: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe temporarily released from Iranian prison

The British-Iranian citizen is one of 85,000 prisoners freed as part of Iran's efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic
A handout picture released on 17 March shows Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe smiling following her temporary release from prison (Free Nazanin campaign/AFP)

Jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been temporarily released in Iran for two weeks, her husband said in a statement on Tuesday.

Richard Ratcliffe confirmed in a post published on the Free Nazanin Campaign Facebook page that "Nazanin was this afternoon released temporarily on furlough for two weeks until 4 April 2020."

"Unfortunately, Nazanin will be exceptionally required to wear an ankle tag during the furlough, which her parents have now hired from the authorities," he said. "Nazanin's movements will be restricted to 300m from her parents' home."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release comes after Iran announced that it had freed around 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, from its jails to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

"Some 50 percent of those released are security-related prisoners... also in the jails, we have taken precautionary measures to confront the outbreak," a judicial spokesperson, Gholamhossein Esmaili, said on Tuesday.

On 10 March, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran said he had asked Tehran to free all political prisoners temporarily from its overcrowded and disease-ridden jails to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Iran has the third-highest caseload after China and Italy, according to World Health Organisation data.

'A welcome step'

Iran's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has reached 853 and a total of 14,991 people have been confirmed infected across the country, one of the worst national outbreaks outside China, where the new virus originated.

Esmaili did not elaborate on when those released would have to return to jail.

Last month, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family said she might have contracted the coronavirus in Tehran's notorious Evin prison. However, the staff had refused to test her.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year sentence for espionage, a charge she has consistently denied. She called her family on Saturday to update them on her health, the wider conditions in the prison ward, and the reluctance of the prison to test her for the virus, The Guardian said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking her then 22-month-old daughter to visit her family. She had been working for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media organisation's philanthropic arm.

In late December, she was denied conditional release by Iran's prosecutor general, MEE reported at the time.

In a statement, the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he was relieved by her release.

"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."