The UK government has deliberately delayed action to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from prison in Iran to avoid offending Donald Trump, lawyers acting for the British-Iranian woman have said.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s legal team says the UK is dragging its feet on repaying a £400 million debt owed by Britain to Iran, and has asked for a meeting with defence secretary Ben Wallace to discuss the issue.
In a seven-page letter to Mr Wallace, the lawyers criticise the UK government for continuing “to raise every possible legal objection to payment of the debt and has plainly failed to engage in constructive dialogue with Tehran”, the Guardian reports.
The debt relates to an arms deal with the late Shah of Iran, when Iran paid for 1,500 battle tanks that were never delivered by Britain.
Now lawyers say that the deferral of the High Court hearing on the debt until the day after the November 3 US presidential election “in effect plays politics with the lives of British citizens”.
They added: ‘The message appears to be that the safety of British citizens abroad is subordinate to falling in line with US policy.’
Donald Trump has taken a hard line against Iran, including breaking an international agreement on the country’s nuclear programme signed by his predecessor. The US also takes a dim view of its allies working with Iran and has moved to try and section European companies that do business there.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, was sentenced to five years in prison on allegations of spying.
She strongly denies the charges against her and has been under effective house arrest at her parents’ home in Tehran since March, when she was granted a temporary release due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: “The defence secretary’s position on this matter has not changed.