LONDON/TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Britain has settled a £400-million debt with Iran as two prisoners convicted over a series of charges headed to London, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Wednesday.
“The IMS (International Military Services) debt has been settled in full compliance with UK and international sanctions and all legal obligations,” Truss said in a statement.
The announcement came as Iranian nationals Nazanin Zaghari and Anoosheh Ashoori were due to arrive back in the UK and Morad Tahbaz was released from prison on furlough to his house in Tehran.
The debt is related to an order of tanks that was cancelled after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Truss has said the issues were separate and blamed sanctions on Iran for delaying the repayment.
Ashouri, who previously lived in southeast London with his family, was detained in August 2017 and sentenced to 10 years in prison for cooperating with Israel’s spy agency Mossad and two years for obtaining 33,000 euros in “illicit funds” nearly a year later.
Zaghari, 43, had been found guilty of plotting to orchestrate a soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic and held since 2016.
Back in October 2017, the prosecutor general of Tehran stated that she was being held for running “a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran.”
Both Zaghari and her employer had claimed that she was simply visiting family while on vacation.
A report published by Fars news agency on Monday said Zaghari would be released soon in return for London’s commitment to pay off a long-overdue debt to Tehran.
Britain has delayed the payment for many years citing problems
faced because of foreign sanctions against Iran.
However, Tehran has insisted the debt should be settled regardless of issues that exist between Iran and the West.
The money is owed to Iran over an upfront payment made by the former Shah of Iran to Britain to buy 1,750 Chieftain tanks and other military vehicles.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday declined to comment on Zaghari’s case and whether there have been direct talks on the debt issue in Tehran although he admitted that talks on consular cases have been going on for a long time.
Later in the day, British lawmaker Tulip Siddiq said Zaghari had had her British passport returned.