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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British-Iranian dual national who is currently being detained in Iran. She is one of several Western dual nationals who have been detained in the country in the last few years on what are regarded as arbitrary charges by the UK Government.

She was originally jailed by the Iranian authorities in 2016 on charges of plotting to overthrow the government, allegations which she has denied. Originally sentenced to five years in prison, four of those were spent at Evin prison and one under house arrest following her release from prison in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A few months before the end of her five-year sentence, further charges were brought against her by the Iranian authorities. Charged with spreading propaganda against the government following her participation in a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in London in 2009 and by giving an interview to the BBC Persian Service, she was sentenced to a further one-year jail term and a one-year travel ban in April 2021. The UK Government called the charges “indefensible and unacceptable” and accused the Iranian Government of deliberately putting her through “a cruel and inhumane ordeal”. In October 2021 she lost an appeal against a second jail term. Although threatened with a return to jail at any time, she currently remains under house arrest.

The Government has been criticised by human rights groups such as Redress and MPs including the former Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, for not acting decisively in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, and those of other British/Iranian dual nationals being held in Iran.

Her family have claimed that she is being held as a bargaining chip to pressurise the Government to pay back a £400 million debt it owes to Iran for the sale of chieftain tanks in the late 1970s. The Government acknowledges the debt that it owes but says that it has been unable to make payment due to the sanctions regime in place against certain designated entities and individuals, including the Iranian Ministry of Defence. The Government has said it regards it as “unhelpful” to connect the cases of British dual nationals with the military debt.

The question of debt repayment has been brought before the UK courts several times over the last few years. A further High Court hearing had been scheduled for April 2021 but was adjourned at the request of the Iranian Ministry of Defence. A final decision on a new hearing date has not yet been made.

At the end of October 2021 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratclilffe’s husband, Richard, began a hunger strike outside the Foreign Office in an attempt to put pressure on the Government, who he has called “too timid” in its efforts to secure her release.

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