United Kingdom denies link between £400m debt to Iran and prisoner

Pauline Gross
November 17, 2017

Downing Street insists there is no link between the negotiations and efforts by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to secure the release of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national now serving a five-year prison term following her arrest on trumped up espionage charges.

Britain owes the funds to Iran as a result of a disputed arms deal during the 1970s and has sought legal advice about whether it could transfer the money to Iran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been under arrest in Iran since April 2016 over allegedly plotting against the government. The former shah of Iran paid the British government £650 million (US$857.3 million at present rate) for 1,750 tanks, but only 185 were delivered before his regime was toppled in 1979 and the order canceled.

Johnson told the House of Commons that he would discuss on Wednesday the possibility of giving Zaghari-Ratcliffe "diplomatic protection", which would elevate her case to a legal dispute between Britain and Iran.

In response to ISNA's question about efforts by certain British media to link the UK's debt pay-off to Iran with the case of Ms. Zaghari, Qassemi said her case has been investigated in the Iranian court and she has been given her sentence after all necessary procedures were completed.

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Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella in an undated photograph handed out by her family.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said yesterday that it was "wrong to link a completely separate debt issue with any other aspect of our bilateral relationship with Iran'".

When asked about the reports, May's spokesman said the government saw no connection between the debt and the fate of Zaghari-Ratcliffe. "That's not something I recognise".

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