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Hopes raised for ‘beginning of the end’ of Brit mum’s Iran jail ordeal

Reprieve: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spent 873 days in prison PICTURES: PA

CHARITY worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘very happy’ after being temporarily released from prison in Iran for three days, her husband has said.

The British-Iranian mother has been reunited with four-year-old daughter Gabriella and other family members after spending 873 days in jail.

She was sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying by Tehran’s Islamist regime.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north London, has consistently denied all allegations, insisting she was on holiday to introduce her daughter to family.

The 39-year-old was released from Evin prison in Tehran this morning and is now with family in Damavand, just outside the capital, until Sunday, according to the Free Nazanin campaign.

Hugs: Gabriella greets her mother with a bunch of flowers

Husband Richard Ratcliffe welcomed the ‘good step’, saying: ‘Despite the build-up, today was a genuine surprise after all the disappointments.

‘We have been burned by hope before, so it had been easier to presume disappointment would come again.

‘But it didn’t — she is outside those prison walls. And we are all so pleased.’

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: ‘I was so emotional to see my grandmother today. I cried so much. I felt so overwhelmed. My dad’s home is not my home, but it is so much better than prison.

‘People in the ward were so excited — they sang songs and danced. I baked for them in celebration. It felt like this really could be the beginning of the end.’

Her lawyer will apply to extend the furlough (leave of absence) and several of her cellmates have remained out of prison more than a month after being granted the same three-day period initially.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted: ‘Really good news that Nazanin has been released on furlough, credit to tireless campaigning by husband Richard and her friends.

‘But being in prison AT ALL is gross injustice and she must be PERMANENTLY released for which every effort will continue.’

Describing the family reunion, Mr Ratcliffe said his wife was ‘overwhelmed’.

He said: ‘She (Nazanin) was very happy on the phone, though confessed to having cried lots, particularly when seeing her grandmother, and to being still overwhelmed.’

Mr Ratcliffe also thanked Mr Hunt for ‘all his recent efforts and considerations’.

‘Tireless’: Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, centre, has campaigned non-stop for her release

The previous foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, last year apologised for the ‘distress’ and ‘suffering’ he caused by suggesting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran, which exposed her to the threat of her five-year jail sentence being doubled.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is facing a further hearing over an unspecified security charge, which her family believes will include an accusation of spreading propaganda against the Iranian regime.

The mother-of-one has been used as a political pawn, according to Nobel Laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.

She said in June: ‘Yes, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being used as a political pawn, but it is not just her. There are currently over 30 dual nationals that are being held in Iran, so pressure must be put on the Iranian government in that regard.’

On Tuesday, Mr Hunt said he was considering whether to grant diplomatic protection as a means of freeing her.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had been going over the case in an ‘enormous amount of detail’ and was considering a request by her husband to grant her diplomatic protection.

Mr Hunt said he had not ‘come to a final decision’ on the issue and said there were ‘pros and cons’.