Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: this wrongly-jailed woman may be released at long last – not because of any breakthrough in negotiations over her, but because Boris Johnson has apparently paid a long-standing debt to Iran in order to gain access to cheap oil.
Once again, with Boris Johnson, it seems the right thing has only happened for the wrong reason.
Johnson ruined Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s chance of release from prison in Iran back in 2018 when, as Foreign Secretary, he stupidly said she had done exactly what the Iranian authorities had jailed her for doing – running a course in journalism. In fact she had been visiting her family.
She has spent five and a half years in prison. Her original five year term ended in March last year but she was immediately charged with a further crime of propaganda activities against the government and jailed for another year on April 26, 2021. So her jail term is nearly spent in any case.
Today (March 15), Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP, Tulip Siddiq, tweeted that her constituent’s passport had been returned to her, suggesting that a return to the UK is likely in the near future.
Sadly, it does not seem that this turn of events has been brought about by any change in the prisoner’s circumstances – or indeed, any negotiations on her behalf by the UK government.
It seems to relate to an alleged £400 million debt incurred by the UK government after an order for military equipment was cancelled because of the revolution in Iran in the late 1970s.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard related this to her case some time ago, saying Iran was refusing to release her until the debt was paid.
Now, reports suggest Boris Johnson has paid up – not to free Nazanin, though, but because the Russo-Ukrainian war means he wants access to cheap oil:
That’s a good question to ask Boris Johnson: “Well, is it?”
While we wait for his answer, let’s consider some of his remarks about the case today – in the light of the evidence that he has paid off the debt because he wants oil – not Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe (these are from the BBC report).
Boris Johnson said it would not be sensible to comment “until we’ve got a final result” but said “delicate discussions are going on”.
Obviously he’s not even referring to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe but to whether he’ll secure any cheap oil for the UK. That’s the subject of the “delicate discussions”. Otherwise this comment doesn’t make sense.
You can see corroboration of that interpretation here:
Mr Johnson said he did not want to “tempt fate” and said that negotiations about “all our difficult consular cases have been going on for a long time”.
He didn’t want to discuss Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe individually and couldn’t say more than he did, because there was nothing to say.
Then, pressed on Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe individually, he came out with this classic fluff:
The prime minister added: “Everybody wants Nazanin home, we’ve been working on that for a long, long time, I do not want to do anything to interrupt conversations right now.”
This is a stock phrase that you will hear repeated whenever there is nothing new to say on a subject.
It indicates that all the work has been about securing oil – at whatever cost is necessary – and none of it has been about the UK citizen who has been wrongly jailed for nearly six years.
And the fact that Johnson is still groping for credit tells us he is a despicable excuse for a human being.
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