There is a growing possibility that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be released from prison imminently after recently being sentenced to 12 months in prison in Iran in addition to the five years she has already been imprisoned. According to Sky News, ‘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… She was also banned from leaving the country for one year for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian embassy in London in 2009.
Detailing further, Sky reports that, ‘the UK will pay £400 million to Tehran to free Iranian-British woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, according to reports on Iranian state TV… 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 that the UK had agreed to pay the £400 million debt over the non-delivery of tanks dating back to the 1970s’. ‘The release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in exchange for the UK’s payment of its £400 million debt to Iran has also been finalised, the official said’.
According to BBC News, this comes just after Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab said that the treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘amounts to torture – the strongest language the UK government has used to date… He also said he believed she was being held illegally under international law. The mood from the Foreign Office in Britain demonstrates that it still does not trust the prospect of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe being released from prison in Iran. ‘It said Iran has made the claim before, without Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe having been released.
A Foreign Office spokesman said it continued ‘to explore options to resolve’ the case and would not comment further while ‘legal discussions’ were ongoing. These negotiations have been welcomed by the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Richard Ratcliffe who said that ‘my instinct is that it is actually a sign we are in the middle of negotiations rather than at the end of them.’
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker from West Hampstead, served a five-year sentence for spying charges, which she has always denied, before being convicted of propaganda against the regime and sentenced to a further year in jail and one-year travel ban last month’. Mr Ratcliffe continues to believe that his wife has been used as a bargaining tool by Iran due to unpaid debt by the UK from the 1970s in relation to a military contract, and as leverage in talks between Iran and world powers.
‘A medical assessment carried out for the human rights charity Redress found Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe 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’. This was before her recent 12-month sentence and she is due to return to prison soon.
In summary, it remains to be seen whether there is a genuine chance that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will be released from prison, along with other prisoners with Western links that are due to be released from prison in Iran, after a deal was struck with Britain and the US. However, it is welcome that there is a reported growing possibility of her release. Whether this reported deal is true, it remains possible but not confirmed by the Foreign Office in Britain as its position remains the same.
However, it is questionable as to how much the UK government has done for the plight of Zaghari-Ratcliffe. If it is true, that it is due to pay £400 million to Iran due to unpaid debts from the 1970s, it certainly raises questions as to why it did not previously do so, to help release Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other prisoners. It also raises questions as to why it did not address these debts to Iran, sooner, considering the suffering of the people in Iran, due to US sanctions.
Whether this is the reason for prisoners such as Zaghari-Ratcliffe being held in Iran, it remains unanswered. However, the growing possibility and likelihood that Zaghari-Ratcliffe seems to be used as a bargaining tool between Iran, Britain and other world powers seems ever more likely. Geopolitical games should not be dominating over the plight of ordinary people like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and it appears that she has been dragged into the political games of the large world powers of Britain and Iran. Whilst it remains to be seen whether Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe gets released from prison, it must happen and human rights must prevail. It is time for the British government to meet its word, and work much more proactively to work to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from prison. Actions speak louder than words.