Boris Johnson would 'consider' sending Iran crate of cash to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Boris Johnson would 'consider' sending Iran crate of cash to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
The detention of British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been linked to a historic debt owed by Iran to the UK.
2 min read
18 November, 2021
Boris Johnson has defended his handling of Nazanin's case [Getty]

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he might consider sending cash to Iran in order to free detained British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Charity worker Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since 2016 on charges of spying - charges she strongly denies - which some have linked to a historic debt owed to Tehran by the UK.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, and other campaigners have urged the UK government to pay off the debt to bring Nazanin home.

"It's certainly worth considering," Johnson told the Commons Liason Committee on Wednesday but warned there are "complexities attached" to such a proposal.

The issue related to the purchase of British tanks by the Shah-era Iranian government, which were never delivered following the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Tehran has demanded the UK pay back the £400 million debt but has not linked this to Nazanin's case.

Johnson's comment about "complexities" likely refers to US sanctions on Iran, including its banking system.

Former UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt has suggested a way around this is to deliver hard cash via cargo plane to Tehran, as the US is believed to have done in 2016 in order to secure the release of four American detainees and kick-start the Iran nuclear deal.

"If you can't use a bank to repay it, for various reasons, why can't we do what President [Barack] Obama did in January 2016 and fly off a crate of cash to Tehran and just repay that debt?" he told the committee.

Iran deputy Foreign Minister said early that this week that the UK agreed to the amount owed to Tehran but complained of the "limitations on banking interactions".

Nazanin was detained while on a family visit to Iran, accused of espionage, charges she and her family strongly reject.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was originally given a five-year jail term but was slapped with a second sentence earlier this year.