Iran says it will look into releasing British national

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2017 6:23 AM
Iran says it will look into releasing British national

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's Foreign Ministry said Monday it will raise the case of a detained British-Iranian woman with the judiciary "out of humanitarian concerns" following a visit by Britain's foreign secretary.

Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said the final decision on whether to release Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government, rests with the judiciary.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe "is considered an Iranian national and should serve her prison conviction according to the judicial system of Iran," he added.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson raised the case during a two-day visit to Iran that concluded Sunday. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker, was detained in April 2016. Her family has denied the allegations against her.

She is among several dual nationals held in Iran, where the judiciary and security forces are dominated by anti-Western hard-liners. It's unclear whether Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a relative moderate, can secure her release.

Johnson recently complicated efforts to free her by saying incorrectly that she was training journalists when arrested. He has since apologized.

Britain and Iran have discussed the release of some 400 million pounds ($530 million) held by London, a payment Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi made for Chieftain tanks that were never delivered. The shah abandoned the throne in 1979 and the Islamic Revolution soon installed the clerically overseen system that endures today.

Authorities in London and Tehran deny the payment has any link to Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

However, the United States made a $400 million transfer to Iran in January 2016 when Iran freed Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans. That money too involved undelivered military equipment from the shah's era. Some U.S. politicians criticized the transfer, calling it a ransom payment.