Tehran: Britain’s debt to Iran not related to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case

September 6, 2020 - 13:29

TEHRAN — Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Saturday that Britain’s debt to Iran has no connection to the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian national who is jailed in Iran, and other dual nationals imprisoned in the country.

“The British government has a definite 40-year long debt to Iran and it doesn’t matter whether a British official acknowledges this debt or not,” Khatibzadeh said.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has acknowledged for the first time that he is actively seeking to pay a debt to the Iranian government owed over a decades-old arms deal to secure the release of British dual nationals including Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Wallace assured lawyers acting for the families that the government was exploring every legal avenue to pay the debt, which for the first time he formally acknowledged the government owes, The Guardian reported on Friday.

The UK is thought to owe as much as £400m to the Iranian government arising from the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered by the late Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

International arbitration in 2008 ruled the UK owed the debt, but in subsequent protracted court battles, lawyers acting for International Military Services, the Ministry of Defense’s now-defunct arms sales agency, have questioned not only the debt’s size but at times whether any debt was payable.

“The paying of Iran’s debt by Britain has nothing to do with the release of dual national prisoners,” Khatibzadeh said, according to Mehr.

He said the truth is that the British government has failed to pay its debt for a long time.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, through different communication lines and in all talks that it has had with the British side, has emphasized that this definite debt must be paid by the British government and this issue is not related to any other issue,” he said.

Referring to Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the spokesman said she has served parts of her sentence and she is not different from other prisoners.

“The issue of Mrs. Zaghari has a judicial procedure and Iran’s Judiciary acts completely independent in this regard,” he said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 41, has been detained in Iran for more than four years on charges of trying to orchestrate a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

The prosecutor general of Tehran had stated in October 2017 that she was being held for running “a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran.”

On November 1, 2017, Boris Johnson, who at the time was Britain’s foreign secretary, said, “When we look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it, at the very limit.”

On June 24, 2019, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Zaghari-Ratcliffe will serve out her five-year prison sentence, dismissing a call for her release by a British minister visiting Tehran.

MH/PA

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