Jeremy Hunt has urged Iran to free a jailed British charity worker, telling the Commons: ‘Whatever disagreements you have with the UK, do not punish this innocent woman.’
The Foreign Secretary issued his latest plea in support of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual citizen, amid an ongoing hunger strike.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe stopped taking food in protest at her ‘unfair imprisonment’, with her husband Richard also on hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in London.
The 40-year-old was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying – a charge she vehemently denies.
Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is imprisoned in Iran takes part in a hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in solidarity with his wife and protesting to call for her release in London, this morning
Jeremy Hunt has called for the release of British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured here with her daughter Gabriella
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe stopped taking food in protest at her ‘unfair imprisonment’, with her husband Richard also on hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in London (pictured today)
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, leaving cabinet today, told the Commons that Iran should let Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe ‘come home’
Mr Hunt earlier this year granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in a bid to resolve her case.
Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Paul Scully (Sutton and Cheam) said: ‘I’ve just returned from seeing Richard Ratcliffe who is on his 11th day of his hunger strike in support of his wife Nazanin, who still languishes in a prison in Iran.
‘Can (Mr Hunt) tell me, with the increased tensions with Iran at the moment, what more we can do to keep Nazanin at the forefront of the profile and that we can make sure the message to get her released is not lost with the other discussions that we have to have?’
Mr Hunt said Mr Ratcliffe is a ‘very brave man’ who is doing a ‘remarkable job’.
He said: ‘The whole House is thinking about Nazanin, thinking about her five-year-old daughter, thinking about that family.
Placards have been placed outside the Iranian Embassy in London. One reads: ‘Words have consequences, Boris’ referring to the gaffe Johnson made in 2017 when he said that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran teaching journalists
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since April 2016 for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian government, a charge denied by her family and the charity she worked for
Both her and her husband, Richard, have staged multiple protests and hunger strikes in attempts to have her conviction overturned
A number of ‘Free Nazanin’ posters placed outside the Iranian Embassay while husband Richard stages his protest
‘Our message to Iran is very simple: whatever disagreements you have with the UK, do not punish this innocent woman, it’s not her fault. Let her come home.’
Both Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband, Richard, 44, have staged various hunger strikes and protests throughout her incarceration but to no avail.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe began a third hunger strike on Saturday, while her husband has set up camp outside the Iranian embassy in London, vowing not to eat for the duration of her protest.
He said he hopes to meet with Tory frontrunner Boris Johnson, or whoever wins the leadership race, soon after they become Prime Minister.
Richard insists that a gaffe made by Johnson in 2017 where he said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran teaching journalists, aided Iran’s propaganda campaign against his wife.
Richard hopes to meet with Tory frontrunner Mr Johnson, or whoever wins the leadership race, soon after they become prime minister
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested on April 3 2016 at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran as she prepared to board a plane back to the UK after visiting relatives and is serving a five-year sentence in the notorious Evin Prison.
This means she will not be released until September 2021.
She and her husband have a five-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who has not been allowed to leave Iran following her mother’s arrest and is living with her grandparents.
She was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016 after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organisation that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News.
Her detention is now also against a backdrop of heightened tensions over an attack against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.