Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: PM says UK working ‘hard’ for release
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Elika Ashoori, whose father Anoosheh Ashoori is also held by Iran, appeared on BBC Newsnight to discuss Britain and Tehran’s talks over freeing Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Reports claimed Boris Johnson’s Government agreed to pay £400 million to Iran in order to free the dual citizen, who has been imprisoned since 2016, which Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied.
Speaking to host Emily Maitlis, Ms Ashoori suggested the UK could pay off the debt by supplying Iran with PPE and Covid equipment.
She said: “It is a money that is owed to Iran, and there are ways for this money to be paid to the people of Iran and not the Government.
“Because Iran has struggled a lot during the pandemic with PPE, medical equipment, medical care.
“And these are negotiation points where Britain could take up, and release these funds in terms of those things.”
Ms Maitlis questioned whether Britain would then be bartering for the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe through “philanthropy”, which Ms Ashoori agreed with.
She continued: “Yeah like in humanitarian aid, and you know there are ways for this debt to be settled that is not just assets going to the Iranian Government.
“At the end of the day it is a debt that needs to be honoured, and for now if that means resulting in releasing hostages, then why not honour that to save some lives?
“Then review the policies that the Government has on arbitrary detention and hostage diplomacy to avoid these things happening in the future.
“Maybe by protecting their citizens in new policies where they can feel safe travelling to these countries.”
Iran claims Britain owes them £400 million date back to the 1970s.
Britain refused to deliver tanks to the nation after the then-Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was ousted in the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
Despite not delivering the tanks, the Government kept the money even though British courts accepted it should be repaid.
Iran has also suffered a grim battle with coronavirus, with 73,219 deaths and 2,575,737 cases as of midnight.
Mr Johnson pledged yesterday to do “everything we can” for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, but officials downplayed suggestions they will pay £400 million to secure her release.
Iranian state TV reported a deal had been struck over the long-running dispute. But the Foreign Office said “legal discussions are ongoing” over the debt despite the claim.
Mr Raab also said Britain’s debt “is not actually the thing that is holding us up at the moment”.
Describing Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention as “torture”, he added: “It’s the wider context as we come up to the Iranian presidential elections and the wider elections.”
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran with her daughter Gabriella while visiting her family.
She was detained for five years over allegations she was spying, which she denies.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe finished her five-year sentence in March, but was then issued a further one-year sentence.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been under house arrest.
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