We must bite the bullet and pay £400m to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, writes former Foreign Secretary JEREMY HUNT

For a second, imagine yourself in Gabriella Ratcliffe’s shoes. My youngest daughter is seven years older than her, so she ought to be enjoying primary school with no cares.

She was cruelly isolated from her parents in her childhood, and she was only permitted to see her mother once per month in an Iranian prison.

She’s now watching her dad and sole carer – a softly spoken accountant with steely resolve – publicly starve himself in an act of utter desperation. It’s hard to imagine the impact of such unspeakable trials on a young life.

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, on the 19th day of his hunger strike outside The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in London, following his wife losing her latest appeal in Iran

Richard Ratcliffe, husband to Iranian detainee Nazanin Zaghhari-Ratcliffe, was on the 19th of his hunger strike outside The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, London, after his wife lost her most recent appeal in Iran

Fairness aside, ministers also want to bring her mother Nazanin Zaghari Rathcliffe home. Since long before I was Foreign Secretary, they have been there. Five foreign ministers flew to Tehran on Theresa May’s watch to try to resolve this issue of dual national British citizens facing arbitrary detention.

It is clear that the regime is heartless and vile. They will not hesitate to falsely detain or torture innocent citizens in order to build diplomatic leverage. Hostage diplomacy is when a mother and daughter play a cruel game of cat and mouse. So there can be no excuses for this wicked, terrorist-sponsoring regime – and thanks to Richard’s courage the world finally knows about Iran’s hostage taking. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do to get our people home: That is to settle a £400million debt we owe Iran for tanks that were never delivered during the time of the Shah.

It is a travesty to pay money for a criminal regime. If this was ransom money I would not support paying it – but a court has decided we owe the money and even the Defence Secretary has said we do. Britain is founded on respect for the rule of law and we should pay our legal debts; finding the loan shark unsavoury unfortunately doesn’t get you off the hook.

All kinds of bureaucratic hurdles prevent us from paying. We could wait until yet another court decision to verify that the debt has been paid. Even though these issues are easily resolved, we can still hide behind the sanctions that make it difficult to transfer the money.

Put yourself for a moment in the shoes of Gabriella Ratcliffe (pictured with her mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe). Aged seven, she should be enjoying her primary school years without a care in the world

For a brief moment, imagine yourself in Gabriella Ratcliffe’s shoes (pictured with Nazanin Zghari-Ratcliffe). She should be seven years old and enjoying primary school without any worries.

Obama paid back similar American debts, so there is little chance of us getting much opposition from him. Liz Truss, the new Foreign Secretary of Canada is a determined freedom fighter.

Our values – and her values – are founded on respect for individual human rights, so what better way to demonstrate that than securing the freedom of Nazanin, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz?

It is time to bite the bullet, get them home and form a united front with our allies so that Iran’s hostage taking is stamped out once and for all.