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Zaghari-Ratcliffe returns to Tehran prison after extension plea rejected

Charity worker is told extension of release is approved, then receives call telling her to return to prison

Supporters have held protests in London to seek her release (Reuters/file photo)

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman who has been held in Tehran for more than two years on sedition charges, returned to prison on Sunday after temporary release, dashing her family's hopes of an extension.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe, who is in Britain, said in a statement she returned to prison in Tehran to continue serving her sentence, according to Reuters.

A tweet on the official "Free Nazanin" Twitter account said: "We have just heard the sad news that Nazanin's extension has been refused and she has returned to prison."

"Here is the moment she said goodbye to a distraught Gabriella," it added, along with a picture of Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her four-year-old daughter.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she was heading back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit. She is serving a five-year prison sentence.

She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organisation that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.

Iranian authorities and her lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. Britain's foreign ministry declined to comment on her status.

"We do not think it is in the best interests of any of our dual national detainees to provide a running commentary on individual cases," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

She was unexpectedly released for a three-day furlough on Thursday, and was reunited with members of her family outside the Iranian capital. 

Ratcliffe said his wife spent her time with her parents and daughter in Damavand, a mountain resort near Tehran.

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The two conditions of her release were that she not give any media interviews or visit the grounds of any foreign embassy.

Bail for her temporary release was reportedly set at one billion rials ($23,800), with her family's home in Tehran used as collateral.

Her husband said they had received "mixed messages" from the Iranian authorities on Sunday, ahead of her return to Evin prison.

The charity worker had initially been told her request for an extension had been approved, but then received a call telling her to return to prison by sunset.

"She was shivering and shaking and crying - and said: 'How can you take me away from my baby, when she needs me'?" Ratcliffe said in an email received by AFP.

Ratcliffe and his supporters have held multiple protests and vigils in London to seek her release, attracting celebrity support from the likes of Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson.