Iran frees Spanish woman held since November

Ana Baneira was arrested while participating in anti-government protests

Dozens of dual nationals have been held at Evin prison in Tehran, Iran. Reuters
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Iran has freed a Spanish woman detained in the country since November last year, Spain's Foreign Minister said on Sunday.

Jose Manuel Albares said Ana Baneira, 24, was freed on Saturday but "we didn't want to announce it publicly before her plane had taken off from Iran".

He said he spoke to Ms Baneira after her release and she was returning to Spain via Dubai.

"Today is a happy day," he said. "The important thing is she is now free and on her way to Spain."

Ms Baneira, from A Coruna, was held in Shiraz prison after joining anti-government protesters who have rallied on the streets since the death in custody of Mahsa Amini in September.

Hundreds of protesters have been killed and several executed for taking part in the nationwide demonstrations, which have posed the biggest threat to Iran's clerical rulers since the foundation of the country in 1979.

Tehran is holding another Spaniard, Santiago Sanchez, who was arrested in October while walking to the World Cup in Qatar.

He is said to have been arrested while visiting the grave of Ms Amini in her hometown of Saqez.

Mr Albares said he would continue to seek Mr Sanchez's release from detention, which he described as having "no foundation".

Iran ramped up its detention of foreigners and dual nationality Iranians after its nuclear deal with world power began to collapse following the US withdrawal in 2018.

Among the dozens held across the country are several European tourists against whom the charges have not been revealed or who have been charged with espionage and spreading propaganda without the evidence being made public.

On Tuesday, Iran's judiciary sentenced a German-Iranian man to death, accusing him of planning and directing terrorist acts.

In January, Iran hanged its former defence minister Ali Reza Akbari, who had emigrated to Britain after leaving office in 2001 and was arrested after returning to the country in 2019.

He was accused of spying for MI6, the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, and of involvement in the assassination of Iran's senior nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in 2020.

The UK condemned his execution as "barbaric".

Updated: February 26, 2023, 12:17 PM