For Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the tip of her sentence might not imply freedom

British-Iranian charity employee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe poses for a photograph after she was launched from home arrest in Tehran – WANA NEWS AGENCY by way of Reuters

After 5 years of imprisonment and home arrest, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will need to have felt a surge of elation when Iranian jail officers lastly eliminated her ankle tag on Sunday. However aid can be tempered by the information that the tip of her jail sentence doesn’t essentially imply her freedom.

The blunt fact, her household concern, is that she is one among a number of British-Iranian hostages being held for ransom. And that ransom has nonetheless not been paid.

Neither authorities desires to confess to something so shabby in public. However over the previous 5 years, Iranian officers have explicitly informed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her household in Iran that her detention is linked to a multi-million-pound debt the UK owes Iran for failing to ship on a Seventies arms deal.

Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, says that has been confirmed to him by worldwide sources he would moderately not title. And that’s the reason he’s guarded about what occurs subsequent: He doesn’t imagine that after 5 lengthy years, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps are keen to surrender their hostage till they see the color of the UK’s cash.

The dispute goes again to the Seventies, when the Shah of Iran ordered over 1,000 Chieftain tanks and armoured autos from Worldwide Army Providers (IMS), a UK Ministry of Defence-owned export firm. After the Shah’s authorities was overthrown within the 1979 revolution the identical yr, the deal fell aside – however Britain didn’t return the advance fee it had already acquired.

In 2008, a world arbitration court docket dominated within the Iranian Ministry of Defence’s favour and stated the UK ought to pay the debt. However attorneys for IMS, which now exists solely as a car to settle this dispute, have fought an epic authorized battle over the dimensions of the fee and whether or not it ought to pay curiosity.

The subsequent listening to of the dispute is due in a London court docket on April 20. Will probably be comparatively easy to maintain Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe in Iran till then – and even past – if her captors want to. Most simply, officers may merely refuse to provide again her passport. That would depart her ostensibly free, however unable to go away the nation to rejoin her husband and daughter. It’s a tactic that different prisoners have confronted previously.

Extra menacing is the specter of a second legal case. In September, she was informed she would face recent prices of “propaganda in opposition to the regime” – allegations which may be linked to remarks Boris Johnson made when he was Overseas Secretary.

Her household say there is no such thing as a new proof that may justify a recent prosecution. However she has been summoned to court docket once more subsequent Sunday, elevating fears she may very well be hit with a brand new conviction. British officers have at all times down-played any supposed hyperlink between the 2 instances, briefing journalists who increase the difficulty that it will be irresponsible to attract any such connection.

However there has just lately been a change of tone in Whitehall. Mr Ratcliffe informed The Telegraph final week that Dominic Raab, the Overseas Secretary, didn’t dispute the existence of a hyperlink at a latest assembly about his spouse’s case.

Do not anticipate Britain or Iran to ever acknowledge such a deal. However the April court docket listening to in London may mark the second when an understanding is reached.

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