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that her lawyer has discovered that on the Iranian judiciary’s computer database her case has been moved from “closed” to “eligible for early release”.

The lawyer relayed the news to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family in Iran on Wednesday afternoon.

“The hardline press has also been saying ‘we shouldn’t kow-tow to these foreigners who come and demand we release our prisoners when we are a sovereign country’.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “It’s not the same as a decision having been made to release, but it is a very clear positive sign towards that.

“The lawyer also said ‘I think they are just going to finalise the paperwork’. His [the lawyer’s] estimate was within a couple of weeks.” Mr Ratcliffe added: “It is definitely positive.

Anticipating this, her lawyer had submitted an application to the Iranian prosecutor’s office in October, saying she should be considered for early release.

The application was supported by a letter from the head of Evin prison in Tehran which said she had been a good prisoner and emphasised her poor mental and physical health, as well as the effect of her imprisonment on her three-year-old daughter Gabriella.

“Nazanin was due to appear in court on the new charge on the Sunday [10 December], while the Foreign Secretary was still in Iran. “Then on the Monday [11 December] the president of the court announced there was no trial and the foreign media had been wrong in saying there was one.” The dropping of the charges seems to have enabled the Iranian judiciary to consider the early release question.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawyer did not know when the judiciary marked her case as eligible for early release, but Mr Ratcliffe said: “Authorisation for that would have come after the Foreign Secretary’s visit.” Mr Ratcliffe said other “signs of hope” that followed Mr Johnson’s visit included “the Foreign Ministry promising to go to the judiciary to look for humanitarian solutions that would allow Nazanin’s case to be ‘progressed’.” “She has started getting extra visits and extra phone calls,” he added.

On the first Iranian working day after the Foreign Secretary’s appearance before the FAC, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was hauled before a hardline judge to be told she faced a new charge of “spreading [hostile] propaganda”.

The new charges seemed to have ruined her chances of early release and threatened to land her with a fresh conviction that would have doubled her jail time.

Mr Ratcliffe has previously claimed his wife was being used as a “bargaining chip”.

He made clear, however, that the Foreign Office insists that the arms deal and his wife’s case are not being linked, and therefore he has been told nothing about the current state of the legal dispute.

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