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Back in U.K., Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Urges Iran to Release Others

LONDON — In her first public comments since arriving back in Britain, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman freed from detention in Iran last week, on Monday appealed for others unjustly held in Tehran to be allowed to leave, saying that she herself should have been released a long time ago.

“I cannot be happier than this that I am here, but also this should have happened six years ago,” said Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, speaking at a news conference four days after being flown to Britain from Iran, where she had been held since making a visit to her parents there in 2016.

Looking composed despite her ordeal, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe pleaded for the release of others left in Tehran including Morad Tahbaz, who holds U.S., British and Iranian citizenship, and whose eldest daughter, Roxanne, spoke at the news conference in Parliament. Without that, “freedom will never be complete,” Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe said.

“It has been cruel what happened to me,” Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe said. But, she added, although her release had taken a long time, others remained in prison and she “was the lucky one who got to be recognized internationally.”

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was reunited with her husband, Richard, and her 7-year-old daughter, Gabriella, last week at the British air base she was flown to after her release in Tehran. Both were with her at the news conference, at which Mr. Ratcliffe also spoke of his wife’s strength and thanked Foreign Secretary Liz Truss for helping to reunite his family.

Despite the elation, coming home had also been tough, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe said, because she was returning to a daughter who was around 2 years old when she left and is now almost 8. She paid tribute to her “amazing” husband and “patient” daughter.

Also released last week was another British-Iranian, Anoosheh Ashoori, a retired civil engineer, who was allowed to return to Britain.

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ordeal began in 2016 when she was detained after being accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government. She was then sentenced to a further year in prison in April last year and received a one-year travel ban over accusations of spreading propaganda.

Mr. Ratcliffe kept up a tireless campaign to keep his wife’s case in the public eye, even staging hunger strikes to draw attention to her situation. On Monday he joked that it was “nice to be retiring,” and thanked politicians and diplomats who helped secure his wife’s release and journalists who kept her case in the spotlight.

Accusations that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had mishandled the situation when he was serving as foreign secretary gave Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case a political edge, too.

Speaking in Parliament in 2017, Mr. Johnson told lawmakers that “she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it,” comments that may have harmed her case in Iran. Her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the London-based charitable arm of the Thomson Reuters news organization, said that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was not teaching journalism, was not a journalist and was on vacation in Iran at the time of her detention.

Asked about Mr. Johnson’s remarks, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe said that she had been unaware of many developments in Britain while she had been held in Tehran. But she did not specifically thank Ms. Truss, noted that since 2016 there had been five different British foreign secretaries and said that she had come to disregard promises that they were seeking her freedom. “How many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five,” she said.

Her release came after Britain settled a debt to Iran of almost 400 million pounds, or about $522 million, dating from the 1970s, when Iran ordered British tanks and armored vehicles which were not delivered after the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Throughout the news conference Monday, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe largely kept away from political issues, avoided discussing her captivity in detail, and said she was determined not to allow her detention to overshadow her future.

“I always felt I am holding this black hole in my heart all these years,” she said, adding that she had decided on her return to “leave this black hole on the plane.”

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