Iran offers prisoner swap for Foundation's Nazanin
Thursday 25 April 2019
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (photo), the Thomson Reuters Foundation manager held in a Tehran jail on espionage charges, could be released as part of a prisoner swap, Iran's foreign minister has said.
Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday that he had the authority to make the swap happen, adding it had already been offered in private six months ago to the United States.
Speaking at the Asia Society in New York, Zarif said: “We have an Iranian lady in Australia who gave birth to a child in prison … after an extradition request by the United States because she was responsible as a translator in … a purchase of some transmission equipment for [an] Iranian broadcasting company.
“That’s her charge. She has been lingering in an Australian jail for the past three years.
“Now we hear about Nazanin Zaghari and her child, and I feel sorry for them and I have done my best to help, but nobody talks about this lady in Australia.
Zarif continued: “I put this offer on the table publicly now. Exchange them.
“All these people that are in prison, inside the United States, on extradition request from the United States - we believe their charges are phoney.
“The United States believes the charges against these people in Iran are phoney. Fine. Let’s not discuss that. Let’s have an exchange.
“I’m ready to do it. And I have authority to do it. We’ve informed the government of the United States six months ago that we are ready - not a response yet. If they tell you anything else, they’re lying.”
Zarif has previously said the issue is for the Iranian judiciary, and rejected any British representations on Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s behalf, arguing it does not recognise dual national status. Born in Iran, she also has British nationality through her marriage to a British man, Richard Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe said he was unsure if it was a serious proposal and it had left him “disoriented”. He said: “Normally my sense with Iran is nothing is flippant, and so it will have a meaning, but it might not be the obvious meaning.”
Ratcliffe said in the approximately 40 messages from Iranian authorities about solving his wife’s case, a prisoner swap was only mentioned once, in February 2017.
British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt travelled to Iran last year to urge Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release but came away empty-handed from a meeting with Zarif. He met her infant daughter, Gabriella, who may come back to the UK to start her schooling if no progress is made on her mother’s imprisonment. Gabriella has been staying with her grandmother in Tehran.
Hunt has declared Zaghari-Ratcliffe now enjoys diplomatic protection, a status that means her imprisonment is a matter of state-to-state dispute, not simply a consular issue. In practice the elevation of the dispute by the Foreign Office appears to have had little practical impact. ■
- The Guardian