Sunday, 24 October, 2021

United Kingdom downplays reported release of ‘torture’ victim Zaghari-Ratcliffe

UK downplays reported release of ‘torture’ victim Zaghari-Ratcliffe Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be released from prison when UK pays £400m fee, Iranian state TV reports
Ginger Lawrence | 03 May, 2021, 12:08

The United States on Sunday denied a report by Iran's state television that the arch-foes had reached a prisoner swap deal in exchange for the release of $7 billion frozen Iranian oil funds under USA sanctions in other countries.

He said there was an "obligation on Iran to release her immediately and without condition".

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the reports "are not true".

White House chief of staff Ron Klain, also told USA media that "there is no agreement" for a prisoner swap. "As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran".

Iranian state TV quoted a source as saying, "The Americans accepted to pay $7 billion and swap four Iranians who were active in bypassing sanctions for four American spies who have served part of their sentences".

Although no formal proposal for a swap has been presented to officials in Washington, let alone been signed off on by the White House, the specificity of the reports from Iran suggested that working-level consideration of a deal is at least underway.

Illustrative: A prison in Iran.

The state TV, quoting an unidentified Iranian official, also said British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe would be released once Britain had paid off a debt on military equipment owed to Tehran.

Hopes for her release last week were dashed when she was handed an additional one-year sentence for propaganda activities.

The alleged prisoner swap would also see the United Kingdom pay 400 million pounds in exchange for the release of British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a former employee at the Thompson Reuters Foundation.

Dominic Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr that Iran had an to release Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe 'immediately and without condition'
Dominic Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr that Iran had an obligation to release Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe 'immediately and without condition'

FILE - Richard Ratcliffe, husband of charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Iran, calls for his wife's release, outside the Iranian Embassy in London, Jan. 16, 2017.

While employed at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, she was taken into custody at Tehran airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family with her daughter.

"My instinct is that it is actually a sign we are in the middle of negotiations rather than at the end of them", he told the BBC.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Raab said: "Nazanin is held unlawfully, in my view, as a matter of worldwide law".

"We haven't heard anything", he said.

Asked about the money on Sunday, Mr Raab said: "It's not exclusively about that".

"I think it amounts to torture the way she's being treated".

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pushed for the 2015 nuclear deal under Rouhani, has seen himself embroiled in a scandal over frank comments he made in a leaked recording.

"That is not actually the thing that's holding us up at the moment, it's the wider context as we come up to the Iranian presidential elections and the wider elections on the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) which, inevitably from the Iranian perspective, the two are considered in tandem".

Tehran says its nuclear weapons program is for peaceful purposes but has recently increased its enrichment of uranium. I think she's being treated in the most abusive, tortuous way.

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