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Denied: Iranian Media Claims US and UK Will Pay for Hostages' Release

May 2, 2021
3 min read
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband and daughter hold a vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London in March 2021. Richard Ratcliffe has yet to receive confirmation of any deal made with Iran
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband and daughter hold a vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in London in March 2021. Richard Ratcliffe has yet to receive confirmation of any deal made with Iran

US and UK authorities have denied Iranian state media reports that the US and the UK are to pay Iran money the country claims it is owed in exchange for the release of hostages.

On Sunday, state TV and other outlets including Mehr News Agency reported on Sunday that Britain will pay Iran £400m related to the non-delivery of Chieftain tanks ordered by the Shah of Iran before the Islamic Revolution.

The dispute with the UK over the tank debt has gone on for 42 years and is thought to be the reason behind Iran’s continued detention of British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Last Monday the Revolutionary Court sentenced Nazanin to a sixth year in prison and a one-year travel ban on trumped-up propaganda charges. It came a week after a three-day UK court hearing over the tank debt was postponed again, for the 11th time since 2013.

Iranian media quoted an anonymous official on Sunday as having said that the UK would “soon” release “£400m of confiscated Iranian assets” and in exchange, Iran would release Nazanin.

Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, who lives in London with the couple’s six-year-old daughter Gabriella, told IranWire he had not received any such news from the British authorities.

“It’s obviously much nicer signalling than last week’s sentence,” he said. “But it still feels like it is more part of ongoing negotiations, rather than denoting their end.”

The announcement is believed to have been premature. A British Foreign Office spokesman told ITV News: "We continue to explore options to resolve this 40-year-old case and will not comment further as legal discussions are ongoing."

There are two other British-Iranian dual nationals currently being held in Iran: Anoosheh Ashouri, a retired civil engineer, and labor activist Mehran Raouf.

In addition, Morad Tahbaz, an environmentalist in prison in Iran, has US-UK-Iranian citizenship and Aras Amiri has UK residency and was formerly an employee of the British Council.

In a separate report, Mehr also quoted an again-unnamed official who reportedly told the pro-Islamic Republic Lebanese TV channel Al-Mayadeen that the US was poised to release $7 billion in frozen Iranian funds: a claim the US has denied.

It added: “Additionally, the two countries may conduct an exchange of prisoners... Tehran might hand over four suspects in espionage cases to Washington.

“This is proof of the pressure put on [US President] Biden and his team and their urgent need for showing an improvement in Iran's case to the US congress.”

Among the Iranian-American dual nationals held in Iran are father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi and Zoroastrian gallerist couple Karan Vafadari and Afarin Neyssari, who were released on bail in 2018 pending an appeal.

For its part, the US government has denied any such deal is in the works. In Washington on Sunday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: "Reports that a prisoner swap deal has been reached are not true.

"As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran. We will not stop until we are able to reunite them with their families."

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain also poured cold water on the report. "Unfortunately, that report is untrue. There is no agreement to release these four Americans," he told CBS.

Related coverage:

As Iran Proposes New Prisoner Swaps, Who are the Iranians Detained in the US?

Jailed Iranian-American Prisoner Struggles with Health Issues

The Foreign, Dual National and Foreign Residents in Iranian Prisons

Revolutionary Court Sentences Nazanin to Another Year Behind Bars



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