Iran’s hardliner media continued to accuse British Iranian detainees who were released on Wednesday of spying and highlighted that Tehran got paid to free them.
Some media outlets affiliated with the IRGC insisted that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, spied for MI6 and plotted against the clerical establishment through creating and training a network of journalist for a "soft overthrow" of the regime.
After the two detainees were allowed to leave Iran, Fars News Agency which is linked to the Revolutionary Guards called Zaghari-Ratcliffe "the $530 million Spy" and said she had been allowed to go home "in return for the unfreezing" of the UK debt. Fars claimed her arrest in 2016 led to the capture of "50 British spies in Iran" and the dismantling of several "spying networks".
The Iranian foreign minister repeated the claim that the guilt of the freed individuals had been proven but said linking the release of the two British-Iranian dual nationals and unfreezing Britain's $530 Debt to Iran is "wrong".
Speaking to reporters in Tehran after the announcement that the two dual citizens held in Iran for several years, Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, were returning home, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said they were freed to go home on "humanitarian grounds'.
"I say candidly that there was no link between the unfreezing of the sum [of $530 million] and the release of individuals who were arrested and tried on espionage and security-related charges. Their crimes were investigated by the judiciary and decisions were made [to imprison them]," he said, adding that Tehran received the money from Britain "several days ago".
Developments in the case happened quickly on Wednesday. As the British prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed that two would leave Iran immediately, they were flown out of Tehran by a plane provided by the Royal Air Force of Oman to Muscat. They left the Omani capital on a military Titan flight headed to Brize Norton Royal Air Force (RAF) station in Oxfordshire late Wednesday evening.
In a statement Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she met Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Albusaidi to secure Oman’s diplomatic assistance. "We are grateful to our friends in Oman for their support in securing the return of our nationals," she said.
Truss added that Iran has agreed to release a third British-Iranian citizen, Morad Tahbaz, on furlough to his house in Tehran. Tahbaz, a conservationist and businessman has been in prison in Iran since 2018.
The British foreign secretary also said in her statement that London's historical debt to Iran has been "settled in full compliance with UK and international sanctions and all legal obligations", adding that these funds would be "ring-fenced solely for the purchase of humanitarian goods".
Richard Ratcliffe, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, in the past eighteen months repeatedly charged that the Iranian government had taken his wife hostage to force the British government to repay 400-million-pounds it received in the 1970s to deliver Chieftain tanks to Iran.
“Iran conducts its diplomatic business through hostage-taking, in part because it is cost-free. British citizens will not be protected from hostage-taking by words and soundbites, but by actions that cause the perpetrators to reassess their calculations and consider the personal costs – for their role in what is a serial organized crime,” Richard Ratcliffe told The Guardian in September 2021.
International organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have for years said Iran's security forces were targeting Iranian dual citizens and foreign nationals, charging them with cooperating with "hostile' states without revealing any evidence, and sentencing them after trials that violated their right to due process.