Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Families of hostages including Nazanin’s slam delays in repaying UK’s debt to Iran in BBC Panorama documentary
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Continual delays in repaying the debt Britain owes Iran have been slammed by Richard Ratcliffe – and the families of other British dual-nationals held hostage like Nazanin in the middle-eastern country.
In a BBC Panorama documentary broadcast on Monday, Richard – along with Sherry Izadi, whose husband Anoosheh is locked up in Evin prison – spoke out against the UK government’s stance that the debt and Iran’s practice of imprisoning dual-nationals are not linked.
British dual-nationals held hostage in Iran – including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – have long been told in private that their continued incarceration is due to the UK government’s failure to pay a £450m debt owed.
READ MORE: ‘No surprise’ as ‘game continues’ with no clemency for Nazanin Zaghari-RatcliffeThe BBC reported again that individuals within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been against paying the debt – because they don’t want to see the money used to attack Britain or its allies.
The next hearing in the protracted legal dispute over the money has been set for the day after the US election this November.
Also this evening, the Guardian has reported that lawyers for Nazanin have written to the defence minister Ben Wallace criticising that the UK appeared to be “waiting for US permission” to pay the debt. The MoD has refuted this.
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In the documentary, Richard said Iran’s hostage-taking “has become normalised” and later added with reference to the debt: “The failure to resolve this issue has resulted in Nazanin being taken hostage, and other people being taken hostage.”
Panorama also reported that a deal for Nazanin to be released in December 2017 fell through for an unidenfied reason.
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Amnesty International’s UK director Kate Allen said: “If there is any truth in this [connecting Nazanin’s incarceration to the debt] it would of course be an absolute outrage, but it’s hardly less outrageous that Nazanin was jailed after a deeply unfair trial, that she was held in solitary confinement when first detained, and that she was repeatedly denied medical treatment during her time in Evin Prison.”
She said ministers needed to “step up their efforts” to obtain the release of those locked up like Nazanin.
Publicly the Iranian authorities have denied any link between the debt and Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment.
The UK Foreign Office also said they do not “recognise any linkage” between the debt and her imprisonment, adding: “It is unhelpful to suggest otherwise.”
Whitehall has said it remains committed to obtaining Nazanin’s freedom and that of others including Anoosheh Ashoori, and that the Prime Minister, foreign secretary and British ambassador in Iran were regularly lobbying for this.
Nazanin was first arrested in Tehran airport in April 2016. She was released from Evin prison into a form of house arrest during the coronavirus pandemic this Spring.