A British Foreign Office official downplayed reports that British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe will be released after payment of a historical military debt.
An anonymous official was quoted by pro-Iran Lebanon-based TV station al-Mayadeen in a report carried by Iranian state media, saying a deal had been reached for the United Kingdom to pay $552 million (400 million pounds) for the release.
The official also allegedly said a deal made between the US and Tehran will see a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of $7 billion frozen Iranian funds. The US State Department denied reports of the prisoner swap.
In its first response to the alleged deal, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said it is “not true.”
“As we have said, we always raise the cases of Americans detained or missing in Iran,” he said.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, had been imprisoned in the Islamic Republic for five years before being released in March 2021. She was then sentenced to another year in prison and banned from leaving the country for one year on charges of creating propaganda against the regime, her lawyer said on Monday.
She was arrested at a Tehran airport in April 2016 as she was about to leave Iran after visiting family in the country and was later convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime in Tehran – charges which she denies.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard told Al Arabiya that he believed her imprisonment to be linked to a $558 million debt owed by the UK to Iran over the non-delivery of weaponry ordered by the Shah in 1979.
Several dual and foreign nationals, including American and British citizens, are currently under arrest in Iran.
Tehran is accused of arresting foreign nationals on trumped-up charges and using them as hostages in an effort to win concessions from other countries.
Iran has long sought to access billions of its assets that have been frozen in foreign banks due to sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump.
Under the Biden administration, Washington and Tehran have begun indirect talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal which Trump abandoned in 2018.