British MPs to probe why UK delayed Iran debt payment to free prisoners
British parliamentarians are set to discuss why it took the government so long to repay a debt to Iran despite likely knowing the payment would allow for the of release two Iranian-British detainees imprisoned by Tehran.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori had been imprisoned in Iran for nearly six years and four years respectively on charges of spying and plotting to overthrow the government. They were released two weeks ago after London paid the outstanding £400 million debt, on the condition that the money be used for humanitarian purposes.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - "I don't agree with Richard on thanking the Foreign Secretary, because I have seen 5 Foreign Secretaries over the course of the 6 years.. I was told many times that we're going to get you home, but that never happened.. I'm not going to even trust you" pic.twitter.com/XS1RH7o6yO— Haggis_UK 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 (@Haggis_UK) March 21, 2022
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which examines the expenditure, administration and policy of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), confirmed it will launch an investigation into the matter.
“After years of imprisonment in extremely difficult circumstances Nazanin and Anoosheh are right to ask for answers,” said Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the committee as quoted in The Guardian.
The UK has been in debt to Iran since 1971 over a promise to send more than 1,700 Chieftain tanks to the Iranian government. Though London received the money, only 175 of the tanks were delivered because of the Iranian revolution in 1979, through which the theocratic rulers still in control of the country seized power.
Alistair Burt, the junior minister for the Middle East between 2017 and 2019, wrote to the committee saying he had urged the government to repay the debt because it was hindering the release of the detainees, according to The Guardian. He reportedly asserted that the sum was not a ransom but a debt acknowledged by the international community.