Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe urges UK to repay £400 million debt to Iran

Detained British-Iranian charity worker questions why UK had not secured her release while Americans have been freed

Nazanin at her parents’ home in west Tehran after her temporary release from Evin jail in March. Free Nazanin Campaign
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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian charity worker detained in Tehran, has asked why the UK is unable to secure her release when the US has freed its citizens from Iran despite having no diplomatic relations.

She also called upon the UK government to repay a £400 million debt owed to Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that has been blamed in part for holding up her release, although British officials say they are not linked.

According to her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who spoke to her on Friday morning, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has questioned what the British government is doing. She intends to raise her concerns with the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, when they speak in the coming days.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 and given a five-year sentence on national security offences but has been paroled since March as Iran has struggled to contain the coronavirus outbreak. She was held at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.

She is engaged in a bid for clemency but her lawyer has been rebuffed on two occasions. He is expected to report to prosecutors on Saturday for an update.

But Mr Ratcliffe said he was not feeling too positive "in light of the games over the past couple of weeks".

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s comments came after Iran released US citizen Michael White in a prisoner exchange.

"She asked me: 'How is it that the US, which doesn't even have diplomatic relations with Iran, has three people out in the last year and we have none?'" Mr Ratcliffe told The Times. "What on earth are they doing?"

He said his wife would be asking Mr Raab “not if he cares, but does he have a plan”.

Referring to the money owed to Iran since 1979 for tanks and other vehicles, Mr Ratcliffe said “a political decision had been made not to repay the debt.

“Attempts to fudge this are not good enough. This is a hostage situation and it is not helped by the government pretending it is not,” he said.

“It is a public policy choice for which there is no accountability. The barefaced refutation of the connection is not good enough.”

In a separate interview with the PA News Agency he warned "the moment of opportunity is now almost gone".

“It has felt for a while like momentum has stalled, and that the moment of opportunity is now almost gone.”