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MP Says Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Has Had Her British Passport Returned

3 min read

British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained in Iran on spying charges for more than five years, has had her British passport returned, according to her MP in London.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq has also said she understands that a British negotiating team is currently in Iran, where Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained since April 2016.

The British-Iranian dual national was arrested at Imam Kohmeini airport and sentenced to a five-year term in prison for the charge of spying.

It is an allegation she strongly denies.

“I am very pleased to say that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been given her British passport back,” Siddiq tweeted.

“She is still at her family home in Tehran. I also understand that there is a British negotiating team in Tehran right now.

“I will keep posting updates as I get them.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said "we don’t comment on speculation,” when asked to confirm whether Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had her passport returned. 

“We have long called for the release of unfairly detained British nationals in Iran," they added. 

According to members of Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family, the dual national is being held in Tehran in a retaliation over a historic £400million debt supposedly owed by the UK to the Iranian government. 

The dispute dates back to the 1970s, when Iran purchased 1,500 chieftain tanks and 250 support vehicles from Britain at a cost of £650million.

The ruling shah paid up front, but the UK only delivered 185 of the tanks before the regime was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution.

The rest of the order was never fulfilled as relations between the two countries broke down, and Tehran has been chasing to get a refund on the undelivered vehicles ever since.

The company that made the deal with Iran – International Military Services Ltd, a now-defunct Ministry of Defence body that solely exists to deal with the debt issue – agreed to deposit the balance with the High Courts as far back as 2002, but the money was never delivered due to a combination of legal battles and international sanctions.

The UK has gone to court to question the size of the debt, as well as its legitimacy, even in the years since an international arbitration in 2008 ruled the money was owed to Iran.

Boris Johnson was believed to have been considering paying the debt back in 2017 when he was foreign secretary, but EU sanctions may have prevented him.

Those same rules are now part of UK policy towards Iran, and there are similar US sanctions which might prevent ministers from handing over the money, despite defence secretary Ben Wallace previously saying Britain should clear the debt.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe has called on the UK government to pay the historic debt it owes Iran to help secure the release of his wife.

On the matter of debt owed to Iran, a spokesperson for FCDO said: “We continue to explore options to resolve this case and will not comment further as discussions are ongoing". 

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