According to two sources who have direct knowledge of the talks between London and Tehran, two British citizens currently held in Iran could soon be freed.
43-year-old aid worker Nazanin ZghariRatcliffe has been released from Iran and is currently at her family's home in Tehran. Tulip Siddiq, British MP, said in a tweet that she was now granted her passport. Siddiq stated that a British delegation was in Iran to negotiate.
Talks are under way for the release Zaghari Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori. Anoosheh Ashoori is a retired engineer in his 60s, who has been held since 2017. According to two sources, their release could occur within hours.
One diplomat from the West said that "it's moving in a positive direction."
Iran is accused of holding British nationals in Iran to make the U.K. settle a dispute that dates back to the 1970s. Iran claims that Britain owes it approximately $200 million because of a cancelled order for British tanks. Britain said that it was willing to repay the debt.
Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe are both dual U.K./Iranian citizens. They were imprisoned for what the British government claims were trumped-up charges during a visit to Iran. Zaghari Ratcliffe was sentenced for plotting to overthrow Iran's government. After participating in a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in London, she was sentenced to extra timelast.
Ashoori was sentenced for spying on Israel. His family called the charge " bogus".
NBC News a representative of the Iranian mission to UN said last year that the Iranian government "categorically rejected" the allegations that the two were being held by the government as "hostages".
A number of American citizens are being held in Iran as well. Their fate could be linked to the revival and withdrawal of the 2015 nuclear agreement, which was abandoned by President Donald Trump in 2018. The U.S. could likely unlock frozen funds in South Korea, Japan, and other countries if Iran and world powers can reach an agreement to restore the deal. This would allow for the release of detained Americans.
Siamak Namazi is an Iranian-American consultant who has been imprisoned since October 2015. His elderly father, Baquer Namazi, and Emad Shargi are both Iranian-American businessmen. Morad Tahbaz is an Iranian American environmental activist who also has British citizenship.
Human rights groups claim that the British, American, and other Western nationals held in Iran on unfounded charges are being held. Tehran also uses foreign detainees as bargaining chips to get ransom payments. Iran denies all charges.
Hostage Aid Worldwide is a non-profit group that was founded by ex-hostages and relatives of hostages who were held abroad. It said it was encouraged to hear of "ongoing progress in the U.K. hostage negotiation with Iran" and asked the Biden administration to "act on its promise and pursue immediate release of American hostages held by Iran."