Great Britain is set to transfer more than 400 million pounds sterling ($530 million) to Iran to secure the release of a dual Iranian-British citizen jailed for allegedly working to undermine the Tehran regime, The Telegraph reported.
In April 2016, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual Iranian-UK citizen and project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested during a visit to the Islamic republic.
Iranian officials charged Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an aid worker, of working to undermine the Iranian government. While she denied the charges, an Iranian court convicted Zaghari-Ratcliffe and sentenced her to five years in jail.
Since the arrest and conviction, the British government has weighed the possible transfer of as much as 450 million pounds ($600 million) to Iran, settling a nearly 40-year-old debt and potentially paving the way for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.
Iran has for decades demanded the money, after an arms deal between the UK and the Shah’s regime was nixed following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Shah had paid the UK for an order of 1,750 Chieftain main battle tanks. But after the Shah was deposed and Islamic revolutionaries took power, Britain refused to ship the tanks, nullifying the agreement.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has urged the British government to settle the debt, suggesting that it could pave the way for his wife’s release.
British Foreign Office officials declined to comment on the transfer of the funds, but Prime Minister Theresa May’s office denied the transfer was a ransom payment to secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also played down the possible link between the 400 million pounds and Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation.
“These are two separate matters,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi. “Linking them is wrong. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been tried and sentenced to jail.”