Iran won't release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in prisoner swap deal

Iran won't release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in prisoner swap deal
Both the UK and Iranian foreign ministries have ruled out a prisoner swap deal, which could see Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe released.
2 min read
26 April, 2019
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held in an Iranian jail since 2016 [Getty]

British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is currently detained in Iran will not be released as part of a prisoner swap with both countries ruling out the deal on Thursday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Thursday dropped his earlier offer of an exchange deal between Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Negar Ghodskani, an Iranian woman held in Australia on a US extradition warrant.

It comes after UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt ruled out the deal, saying there was a "huge difference" between the Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ghodskani's cases.

"The woman in jail in Australia is facing due process, a proper legal procedure, and she is alleged to have committed a very serious crime," he told reporters in London.

"Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is innocent - she has done nothing wrong."

He accused Tehran of using the jailed British charity worker as a bargaining chip, after she was detained when she visited family in Iran in 2016.

"What is unacceptable about what Iran is doing is that they are putting innocent people in prison and using it as leverage," Hunt added. 

"I'm afraid that is what is happening with this Australian case. They're saying, we'll only release this innocent Brit if you'll do something that suits us diplomatically."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe - who been campaigning for the jailed British woman - also appeared hint that Zarif's suggestion of a prisoner swap was a politically-motivated tactic, although he welcomed talk of her release. 

"It's clearly a hopeful thing that he was talking about her release explicitly," he told AFP.

"At the same time, linking her in a public way to a big complicated deal that is almost impossible to do because it's been made public could easily be a displacement tactic."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation and was jailed by Tehran authorities after being accused of plotting against the government and handed a five-year jail sentence for sedition.

The UK granted Zaghari-Ratcliffe - who remains separated from her daughter - diplomatic protection in a bid to free her.

Australia resident Ghodskani, a legal resident of Australia, was arrested in 2017 after being accused of trying to obtain US digital communications technology by presenting herself as an employee of a Malaysian company.

US prosecutors allege that Ghodskani - who also has a young child - sent the technology to Iranian business Fanamoj, which works in public broadcasting company.