UK downplays reports of £400m payment for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release from Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Credit: PA Media

UK officials have downplayed reports made by Iranian state television which claim the UK is set to pay £400m for the release of British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

It was being said that Iran has made the claim before, without her having been released, and that the Government’s position has not changed.

The Iranian news channel reported deals have been reached to release prisoners with Western ties held in Iran.

The official also said a deal with the US will see a prisoner swap in exchange for the release of 7 billion dollars (£5 billion) in frozen Iranian funds.

Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe stands next to her father Richard Ratcliffe Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard told the PA news agency he and his family “have heard nothing” about a deal to release his wife.

Mr Ratcliffe said: “It’s probably a good sign that it’s being signalled, just as last week’s sentence was a bad sign.

“But it feels part of the negotiations rather than the end of them.”

The report comes the week after the British-Iranian national was sentenced to another year in prison in Iran, on top of a five-year sentence she already served in the Islamic Republic.

The mother of one’s new sentence came amid negotiations as Tehran sought hundreds of millions of pounds from the UK from a decades-old arms deal.

Mr Ratcliffe says news reports his wife may be released are ‘probably a good sign’ Credit: Ian West/PA

While employed at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, she was taken into custody at Tehran airport in April 2016 as she was returning home to Britain after visiting family with her daughter.

She was convicted of plotting the overthrow of Iran’s government, a charge that she, her supporters and rights groups deny.

The latest sentence was for charges of spreading “propaganda against the system” for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009.

She and her family believe she was held as political leverage to try to force the UK’s hand in a long-running financial dispute with Iran.

It dates back to the 1970s when the then-shah of Iran paid the UK £400 million for 1,500 Chieftain tanks.

When the shah was toppled in 1979, Britain refused to deliver the tanks to the new Islamic Republic but kept the cash, despite British courts accepting it should be repaid.