Human Rights

Iran Shows Prisoners on State Television in Seeming Attempt to Pressure U.S., UK Governments

Ahead of decisions of importance to Tehran by United States and U.K. governments, the Iranian state television showed footage of two foreign nationals who have been jailed by the regime, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Monday.

The spouses of Xiyue Wang, an American graduate student, and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual citizen who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, believe that the broadcasts were meant to send signals to the governments of the United States and United Kingdom.

Hua Qu, Wang’s wife, told the Associated Press that the public broadcast of her husband’s image comes ahead of the deadline the U.S. Congress has to reconsider whether to reimpose sanctions that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal with Iran. In October, President Donald Trump refused to certify the nuclear deal on grounds that the sanctions relief for Iran were no longer “appropriate and proportional,” leaving it up to Congress, according the Corker-Cardin bill, to decide whether to continue waiving the sanctions that were lifted.

Similarly, the U.K. government is considering paying Iran $530 million due to an arms deal that was cancelled after Iran’s 1979 revolution. Richard Ratcliffe told the AP that the decision to broadcast appears to be intended to pressure the government to release the money.

Though Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a dual citizen, Iran doesn’t recognize dual citizenship and refuses to give access to consular services.

Reuters reported earlier this month that since the nuclear deal was implemented, Iran has arrested at least 30 dual citizens.

In circumstances similar to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s, in January 2016, on the day the nuclear deal was implemented, the U.S. government paid $1.7 billion that Iran said it was owed due to a canceled arms deal at the same time Iran released five Americans it had arrested. Though the U.S. government denied it, an Iranian general characterized the payment as ransom for the Americans taken hostage.

Richard Ratcliffe said last year that his wife, who had been arrested and separated from her toddler daughter as she prepared to leave Iran in April 2016, was being held as a “bargaining chip.”

In Why Does Iran Keep Taking American Hostages?, published in the September 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Iran expert Ali Alfoneh described the regime’s detainment of foreign and dual-nationals as “a perfectly normal procedure and political practice in the Islamic Republic. That has been the case since the first day of the revolution and continues until today.”

[Photo: Ali Javad / YouTube]