Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has commited to do everything possible to bring home a charity worker jailed in Iran, after meeting with her husband.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is British-Iranian, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 for spying.She denies all the allegations against her.
Mr Hunt met her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, on Thursday and described the situation as “shocking and desperate”.He said it was “good to meet Richard Ratcliffe and his family” and “they are showing extraordinary strength and resilience, as is Nazanin”.”We will do everything we can to bring her home”, he added.
Last month the family said Boris Johnson’s resignation had put her case “at the bottom of the pile”.
While serving as foreign secretary Johnson faced criticism after telling a parliamentary committee that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran to train journalists, contradicting the claim that she was on holiday when she was arrested.He later apologised and acknowledged this was not the case
In April Dr Ratcliffe said he was “disappointed” at Mr Johnson’s failure to secure his wife’s release.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for Thomson Reuters Foundation, is facing a further unspecified security charge, which her family believes includes a new allegation of spreading propaganda.The 39-year-old, from Hampstead, north London, has consistently denied all the allegations, insisting she was on holiday to introduce her daughter to her family.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, has dual British and Iranian citizenship, and before her arrest lived in London with accountant husband Richard Ratcliffe.She worked as a project manager for the charity Thomson Reuters Foundation and was previously employed by BBC Media Action, an international development charity.
She says she took her daughter Gabriella, three, to Iran in March 2016 to celebrate the country’s new year and visit her parents
Iranian authorities allege Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was plotting to topple the government in Tehran – but no official charges have been made public. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said she was visiting Iran leading a “foreign-linked hostile network”.
Both her employers, Thomson Reuters Foundation and BBC Media Action, have issued statements saying she was not working in Iran but was on holiday there.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s five-year-sentence was handed down on 6 September – one day after the UK appointed an ambassador to Iran for the first time since 2011.
Mr Ratcliffe cites the timing as proof his wife is being held as a political bargaining chip.
BBC diplomatic correspondent Caroline Hawley said London and Tehran do not see eye-to-eye on Iran’s role in the wider Middle East or on human rights.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are hardliners, opposed to Iran’s nuclear deal struck by moderates with the west in 2015. And in 2009, Britain was accused of fuelling unprecedented street protests.