UK to pay historic debt of £400m in deal to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

UK to pay historic dept of £400m in deal to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British Iranian mother jailed in Iran three years ago on espionage charges, could be released as part of a prisoner exchange

Quoting an anonymous official, a state broadcaster said deals had been reached with both Britain and the US in order to release prisoners with Western links held in Iran.

It was said the UK had agreed to pay the £400m debt over the non-delivery of tanks dating back to the 1970s.

The US was said to have agreed a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of $7bn (£5bn) of frozen Iranian funds, but Washington did also not immediately acknowledge any deal.

“The release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in exchange for the UK’s payment of its £400m debt to Iran has also been finalised,” the official said.

It comes just days after Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to another year in prison on charges of “propaganda activities against the regime” in Iran.

Potential prisoner exchange.

An Iranian official also says a deal with the US will see a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of $7bn frozen Iranian funds.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in April while speaking at an Asia Society event in New York, he had the authority to initiate a wide-ranging exchange, involving prisoners in Iran and those held by the United States or third countries.
In response to a question from the audience, Iran’s top diplomat contrasted the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker who was arrested in April 2016, with the case of an Iranian he said was detained in Australia.

“We have an Iranian woman in Australia who gave birth to a child in prison… on an extradition request by the United States because she was responsible as a translator in a … purchase operation … of some transmission equipment for Iranian broadcasting company, that’s her charge,” the minister said.”Now we hear about Nazanin Zaghari and her child, and I feel sorry for them, and I’ve done my best to help, but nobody talks about this lady in Australia,” Zarif said.

Zarif said there were several people detained in the US, or in allied nations, on so-called “phoney” charges. He suggested they be traded for prisoners in Iran whom the US and allies believe are being held on spurious charges. “So what can I do as a foreign minister? I put this offer on the table, publicly, now. Exchange them.

All these people that are in prison — inside the United States, on extradition request from the United States. “Let’s have an exchange. I”m ready to do it, and I have authority to do it. We’ve informed the government of the United States six months ago that we are ready. Not a response yet. If they tell you something else, they’re lying.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We continue to explore options to resolve this 40-year-old case and will not comment further as legal discussions are ongoing.”

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq said her family had “heard nothing” to confirm reports she may be released.

Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe’s constituency MP for Hampstead and Kilburn tweeted: “I am aware there are news reports circulating about the debt being paid to #FreeNazanin. I have spoken to her family and they have heard nothing confirming any of these rumours.

“It was however welcome to hear Dominic Raab refer to her torture this morning on Marr. I hope the Government is doing all it can to get the hostages home.”

A medical assessment carried out for the human rights charity Redress found Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from West Hampstead, had post-traumatic stress disorder from her treatment in Iranian prisons and the uncertainty about her fate.

She was released in March due to the coronavirus crisis and has been living under house arrest. She has not yet been taken back to prison and plans to appeal against the latest conviction.

Her daughter, Gabriella, was with her mother when she was arrested and returned to the UK in 2019 to begin school.

The six-year-old has not yet been told about her mother’s latest prison sentence, with Mr Ratcliffe saying he felt it would be better to wait until she has to return to jail before breaking the news.

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