Prisoner release in Iran needs more than talk

The much publicised trip of UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, to Tehran appears not to have secured the release of Nazanin  Zaghari-Ratcliffe in spite of the high hopes that the UK media attached to the visit.

This should not come as a great surprise to those who have been monitoring the Islamic Republic for the past thirty years.  The regime in Iran is nothing if not intransigent.  Its track record in dealing with internal opposition over the years is a clear illustration that the regime in Tehran tolerates no dissent and is ruthless in dealing with those it deems to be taking issue with its policies.

The Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR) has been engaged in campaigning against the abuse of human rights in Iran for the entire period of the Islamic Republic’s existence.  CODIR has significant experience of the unresponsiveness of the regime to both internal and external pressure.

“Given the track record of the regime in Iran we should not be surprised to hear that the Foreign Secretary’s trip has not brought immediate results”, CODIR Assistant Secretary, Jamshid Ahmadi, said today.  “It is very unlikely that the theocracy in Iran would want to be seen to be responding to such pressure.  If the UK citizens in Iran’s jails are to be freed, the Iranian government will want to be seen to be doing this in its own time, for its own reasons.”

There has been talk in the media that a deal relating to payments to Iran from the 1970’s may be the key to unlock the release of prisoners.  In 1976 the Shah paid the UK £300m for a delivery of tanks, which never arrived due to the arms embargo following the 1979 revolution and subsequent arms embargo.

While the UK government insist that any release will not be linked to such payments it is known that the release of five US citizens last year followed agreement on a similarly contested payment being settled.

Given that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been accused of “propaganda against the regime” the Iranians will need significant persuasion to release her without losing face.

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 16: Supporters hold a photo of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a vigil for British-Iranian mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Tehran outisde the Iranian Embassy on January 16, 2017 in London, England. Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in September 2016 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the Iranian government. The vigil, being held outside the Iranian Embassy in London marks one year since the Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and other US-Iranian dual-nationals were released from prison in Iran. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)














The lifting of banking restrictions, which make it difficult for Iran to benefit from the lifting of EU sanctions, is one area, the outstanding payments issue another, which will have been on the agenda in discussions with the Foreign Secretary.

Any deal linked to prisoner release is unlikely to be made public.  Any release of foreign prisoners is unlikely to benefit the internal opposition from trade unions, political parties and women’s groups languishing in the Islamic Republic’s jails.

“We hope that UK citizens imprisoned unjustly in Iran will be freed”, continued Mr. Ahmadi, “but our work will need to continue in order to highlight the ongoing brutality of the Iranian regime against its own citizens.  Until that ends, our campaign will not be over.”


Contact Information for CODIR:-

Postal Address:


Further information on CODIR

CODIR is the Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights.  It has been established since 1981 and has consistently campaigned to expose human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

CODIR has worked closely with the trades union movement in the UK, the peace movement, all major political parties and Amnesty International to press the case for an end to torture in Iran’s prisons.

CODIR has published Iran Today, its quarterly journal, since 1981, explaining the latest developments in Iran and the most effective way that the British public opinion could demonstrate its solidarity with the people of Iran.



Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.