Iran is most likely playing for time over Nazanin – with £400m at stake


Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s five-year sentence is over but she has not been released. 

Yes her electronic tag has been taken off and she can travel where she wants – within Iran.

But Nazanin cannot leave the country. And it seems she must return to court next Sunday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Nazanin has been held in Iran for five years

The British government must now decide how to act.

A dual British-Iranian national is being held against her will in another country with the possibility of facing yet more time in jail.

The Iranians are most likely playing for time.

They know a key date is looming in the decades-long wrangle over hundreds of millions of pounds in debt owed by the UK for tanks ordered before the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.

More from Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliffe outside the Iranian embassy in London
Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe outside the Iranian embassy in London

The Iranians have made it clear they link the two cases.

In early April a court hearing could see the last hurdles to the repayment of that debt cleared.

The Iranians were never likely to let Nazanin go until that money is paid to the tune of £400m plus interest.

The judiciary is not independent in Iran. It will do the bidding of the government.

If factions powerful enough to demand it insist on Nazanin remaining in custody that is what will happen.

With £400m at stake, it seems likely the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is involved.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

In September Iran pulled back from bringing new charges against Nazanin after a diplomatic hue and cry.

Her family will hope that similar pressure can be brought to bear if they try again.

They will hope that this is a temporary delay while the tank debt is finally resolved. If not they could face years more agony.

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