The UK is delaying a deal with Iran to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe because they're afraid of angering Trump, say her lawyers

The UK is delaying a deal with Iran to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe because they're afraid of angering Trump, say her lawyers
Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen in an undated photograph handed out by her familyReuters
  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's lawyers say the UK is delaying efforts to secure her release in order to avoid angering Trump.
  • Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman, has been trapped in Iran since her arrest there in 2016.
  • She was visting family when she was arrested for allegedly "plotting to topple the Iranian government."
  • The UK government has been trying to secure her release ever since.
  • However, her lawyers have accused Boris Johnson's government of not taking all necessary steps to bring her back to the UK.
  • They say the UK is refusing to pay Iran a £400 million debt for fear of undermining Trump's hardline approach to Tehran.

Lawyers representing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe — the British-Iranian woman trapped in Iran — have accused Boris Johnson's UK government of delaying a potential deal to secure her release in order to avoid upsetting the Trump administration.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held in Iran since April 2016 when she was arrested in Tehran accused of spying and "plotting to topple the Iranian government." Zaghari-Ratcliffe totally denies the allegations and says she travelled to Iran to visit family. She was temporarily released in March at the height of Iran's coronavirus pandemic, but has been under effective house arrest ever since.

In a seven-page letter to UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, lawyers representing Zaghari-Ratcliffe have accused the UK government of failing to take all necessary steps to secure her release from Iran for fear of undermining President Trump's hardline approach to Iran, The Guardian newspaper reports.

The lawyers say the UK government has hindered Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release by avoiding paying Iran £400 million debt incurred by a cancelled arms deal in the 1970s. The letter said the UK government "continues to raise every possible legal objection to payment of the debt and has plainly failed to engage in constructive dialogue with Tehran."

The decision to postpone the next high court case hearing on the debt to November 4, a day after the US presidential election, is effectively endangering British lives in order to appease the Trump administration, the lawyers said.


"The UK government is apparently waiting for implicit permission from the US government to pay the UK's legally owed debts, payment of which would allow Nazanin (and other innocent British nationals) finally to come home. The message appears to be that the safety of British citizens abroad is subordinate to falling in line with US policy," their letter said.

The UK is delaying a deal with Iran to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe because they're afraid of angering Trump, say her lawyers
Britain's Secretary of State of Defence Ben Wallace leaves Downing Street 10 in London.Reuters

The letter also accused the UK government of failing to pressure Iran into reducing human rights abuses.

"There has been a new wave of forced confessions and prisoners being tortured, a new programme of family members of activists and prisoners being arrested, more instances of second sentences being levelled against cellmates of Nazanin who would otherwise be eligible for release," it said.

A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence told The Guardian: "The defence secretary's position on this matter has not changed. As previous government statements have made clear, we remain committed to securing the immediate and permanent release of all arbitrarily detained dual British nationals in Iran and regularly lobby for their release at the highest levels. This includes through the prime minister, the foreign secretary and the British ambassador in Tehran."

The accusation that Johnson's UK government is wary of upsetting the US over Iran comes amid an awkward disagreement between Britain and the Trump administration over whether to impose sanctions on Tehran.


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week accused the UK and other European allies of "siding with the ayatollahs" after they refused to back a US move at the United Nations to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

The US wants to reimpose sanctions that were removed by UN nations in 2015, as it believes Tehran has violated terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. However, the UK, Germany, and France said the US could not do this because President Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.

Pompeo reacted furiously to the opposition, accusing European allies of "lacking courage and conviction" and saying "their actions endanger the people of Iraq, of Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and indeed their own citizens as well."