British Mother Nazanin Zaghari-ratcliffe Jailed in Iran Is 'Eligible for Early Release'

A British Iranian mother held in Iran on espionage charges has been told she is eligible for early release.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker and a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), was arrested in 2016 as she tried to return to the U.K. after visiting her family with her daughter Gabriella, according to her supporters.

The 38-year-old mother from London, held in Tehran's Evin prison, was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and sentenced to five years in prison after being accused of trying to lead a soft coup to topple the regime. She denies the charges.

Her husband Richard said there are hopes for an early release after she met her lawyer.

He told Newsweek: "I am sitting here with fingers crossed. I am definitely more hopeful than I was when we last spoke, but I am trying not to get ahead of myself."

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq welcomed the news, saying it was a "glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel for my constituents Richard, Nazanin and Gabriella.

"It has given Nazanin a real boost of positive energy, and now we wait impatiently to see what happens next.

"Although we do not want to celebrate prematurely, it would be the perfect Christmas gift to see Nazanin released and back with her family where she belongs."

Richard previously told Newsweek he hoped U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson could bring his wife and daughter back for Christmas. He made the remark as Johnson traveled to Iran earlier in December to discuss the case.

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"My message to the U.K. government and Boris Johnson is: Please make it really clear that Nazanin is a British citizens and she needs to be home with her family. Please find a way to get her home for Christmas," he said.

"Christmas is a time of family and reunification. Iran has a proud humanitarian tradition in the way it releases prisoners and it would just be great for me, for Nazanin, for my daughter, if she just could be allowed to come home this Christmas."

Gabriella, now three-and-a-half years old, has not been able to return to the U.K. since her mother's arrest. She has been living with her grandparents in Tehran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's health deteriorated as Iran is trying to apply fresh charges against her, after Johnson incorrectly stated at the beginning of November that Nazanin was in Iran in a working capacity, training journalists. Both TRF and Richard have always maintained that she was on holiday at the time of her arrest, a central part of her defense.

Iran used Johnson's remark to justify new charges against Nazanin, who now faces 16 years in jail as she is accused of spreading propaganda.

Johnson, who faced mounting pressure to step down following his gaffe, has retracted his remarks since, but Iran is still using them against Zaghari-Ratcliffe.