In the late 1970s, the British Government sold a number of tanks to Iran, at the cost of £400,000,000. The former Shah of Iran paid in advance, and awaited delivery of the tanks. But then he was overthrown by the ayatollahs, and Britain decided not to send the tanks after all. To rub salt in the wound, they sold the tanks to Iraq instead, getting paid twice for the same weapons.
The question of Britain returning the money to Iran has often been raised, but consistently ignored by every British government since 1979.
In 2016, a woman named Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran, and accused of spying for the Bitish government. She was there visiting her parents, taking along her baby daughter for them to see for the first time. Despite her being a writer, married to a British man, and holding dual nationality, the Iranian court convicted her, and sentenced her to five years in prison. Since then, a vigorous campaign has been going on to try to get her released.
In March this year, her sentence finished. She was then re-arrested on charges of ‘Spreading propaganda’. Today, she was sentenced to a further year in prison.
This is all a game of course. Nazanin was arrested as little more that a ‘hostage’, in the hope of securing payment of that old £400 million debt. The British government could have easily secured her release in 2016, by acknowledging the debt to Iran, and arranging to pay it. But they chose not to. Last month, they coud have stopped her being arrested again, simply by paying the outstanding debt from 1979. They chose not to.
Government ministers think it is acceptable for this young woman to spend six years in prison in a foreign country, and for her baby daughter to grow up without seeing her mother, just to save them the embarrassment of admitting the debt, and actually paying it.
Shame on them.