Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been released from custody in Iran, according to Iranian government officials. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the 43-year-old British-Iranian woman, was detained in Iran over five years ago when she was accused of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government. Her case became even more high profile when Boris Johnson was criticised for making a misleading statement during his time as foreign secretary when he claimed she had been ‘teaching people journalism’ in Iran. The comments were cited as proof by the Iranian government that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had engaged in ‘propaganda against the regime’. She has always denied all charges.
Now it has been reported that Zaghari-Ratcliffe, alongside another British-Iranian Anoosheh Ashouri, are at Tehran airport raising hopes that they could both soon be back in the UK. Speaking this morning, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said securing the freedom of dual national detainees was ‘an absolute priority’. The fact progress has been made is also an indicator of improved relations between the two governments. One of the factors behind Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention has been a £400m debt dating back to the 1970s. When asked about this, Truss said that the government was ‘looking for ways to pay for it’ and that the debt was ‘legitimate’.
The current situation in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion has also likely played a factor. As Boris Johnson attempts to woo the Saudis into pumping more oil so as to ease the cost of living crisis, a return of Iranian oil to world markets would also change the picture. Nuclear negotiations in Vienna regarding the Iran nuclear deal are coming along. And if progress can be made and a deal done with Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iranian oil can return to world markets.
Today’s developments are a sign of UK-Iran relations improving. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s safe return to the UK will also be a political relief for Boris Johnson given the criticism he has received over his handling of the case during his time in the Foreign Office.
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