Labour MP Tulip Siddiq has dismissed the ‘false narrative’ that the UK will pay Iran a £400million ransom to secure the release of her constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Siddiq said in a Twitter post on Monday that the money is an ‘historic debt’ that the UK owes Iran.
The financial dispute dates back to the 1970s, when the UK failed to deliver tanks to Iran despite accepting payment.
Discussions between the UK and Iran over the debt are ongoing but should not be conflated with Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, a Foreign Office minister has said.
‘People seem to be being fed a false narrative that the £400m in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case is a ransom. It is not. It is a historic debt that the courts (and the Government) have confirmed the UK owes Iran.’, Siddiq wrote alongside the hashtag #FreeNazanin.
Siddiq is the latest British official to downplay the claim that the UK would pay Iran the money to secure Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.
The claim was made on Iranian state television, which cited an anonymous official.
Labour MP Tulip Siddiq has dismissed the ‘false narrative’ that the UK will pay Iran a £400million ransom to secure the release of her constituent Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is pictured above
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said Cleverly said that ongoing legal disputes between the UK and Iran should be kept separate from the ‘arbitrary detention’ of prisoners in Tehran.
British dual nationals such as Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe should not be used as ‘political leverage’ by Iranian authorities, he said.
UK officials have played down the idea that payment of the debt would mean Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imminent release, and Mr Cleverly said recent reports out of Iran had been ‘inaccurate’.
‘We have always said that British dual nationals should not be used as political leverage,’ Mr Cleverly told Sky News.
‘We have also seen a number of occasions where the Iranian regime have used disinformation, we’re hearing inaccurate reports coming out over the last couple of days.
Siddiq (pictured) said in a Twitter post on Monday that the £400m mentioned by Iranian state TV in connection with the case is an ‘historic debt’ that the UK owes Iran [File photo]
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly (pictured) said ongoing legal disputes between the UK and Iran should be kept separate from the ‘arbitrary detention’ of prisoners in Tehran [File photo]
‘On the one hand, they are saying that these proceedings are legitimate, we don’t agree with that at all, but then also saying that they are linked to this legal dispute – it can’t be both.
‘We’re making it very, very clear. It is in the hands of the Tehran regime to release these people and they should be released.’
The legal dispute dates back to the 1970s when the then-Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid the UK £400 million for 1,500 Chieftain tanks.
Britain refused to deliver the tanks to the new Islamic Republic when the Shah was toppled in 1979, but kept the cash despite British courts accepting that it should be repaid.
Hopes were raised when Iranian state TV reported that the UK had agreed to pay the £400 million to secure the release of Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Mr Cleverly told Times Radio that the dispute was a ‘completely separate issue’ and should ‘absolutely not’ be linked to ongoing imprisonment of British nationals.
‘The charges against them are illegitimate, they’re unfounded, their incarceration is completely unacceptable and inappropriate,’ he said.
‘That is a completely separate issue to the legal dispute that is still ongoing with Iran.
‘Iran should absolutely not be linking the two.’
The anonymous official quoted by Iranian state TV was also quoted as saying a deal had been made between the US and Tehran for a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of seven billion dollars (£5 billion) of frozen Iranian funds.
But Washington denied the report, saying suggestions of a prisoner swap were ‘not true’.
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and their daughter Gabriella protest outside the Iranian Embassy in London on March 8
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 42, of north London, was detained in Tehran in 2016 while taking her daughter Gabriella to see her family.
Iranian authorities – who do not recognise dual citizenship – made widely refuted allegations of spying.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe completed a five-year sentence in March, having carried out hunger strikes in protest over her treatment in jail as diplomatic efforts were made to secure her freedom.
But she and her family were delivered a fresh blow last week when she was given an additional one-year jail term.
She was also banned from leaving Iran for a further year.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard believe her ongoing imprisonment in Iran is being used as a bargaining chip in the debt dispute between the UK and Iran.