Jeremy Hunt meets Iranian Minister to demand British mothers release

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6403977/Jeremy-Hunt-flies-Iran-demand-release-jailed-British-mother-40-accused-spy.html

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif today to demand the release of a British mother.

Mr Hunt is using his first trip to the country to lobby Iran’s leaders about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe over her two-year imprisonment on dubious spying charges.

He was welcomed into the capital Tehran by Mr Javad Zarif who shook his hand as they arrived at the meeting to discuss Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.  

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) talks to Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (2-R) in Tehran, Iran

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) talks to Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (2-R) in Tehran, Iran

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) talks to Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt (2-R) in Tehran, Iran

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has met with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to demand the release of a British mother

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has met with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to demand the release of a British mother

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to demand the release of a British mother

He was welcomed into the capital Tehran by Mr Javad Zarif who shook his hand as they arrived at the meeting to discuss Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe

He was welcomed into the capital Tehran by Mr Javad Zarif who shook his hand as they arrived at the meeting to discuss Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe

He was welcomed into the capital Tehran by Mr Javad Zarif who shook his hand as they arrived at the meeting to discuss Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Mr Hunt intended to tell his Iranian counterpart that the aid worker, who has joint British and Iranian citizenship, should be reunited with her husband Richard and their four-year-old daughter Gabriella.  

Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Hunt said using innocent people to gain ‘political leverage’ was unacceptable.

He added: ‘We must see those innocent British-Iranian dual nationals imprisoned in Iran returned to their families in Britain. I have heard too many heartbreaking stories from families who have been forced to endure a terrible separation. 

 Mr Hunt is using his first trip to the country to lobby Iran’s leaders about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe over her two-year imprisonment on dubious spying charges (pictured with her daughter Gabriella

 Mr Hunt is using his first trip to the country to lobby Iran’s leaders about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe over her two-year imprisonment on dubious spying charges (pictured with her daughter Gabriella

 Mr Hunt is using his first trip to the country to lobby Iran’s leaders about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe over her two-year imprisonment on dubious spying charges (pictured with her daughter Gabriella

Mr Hunt intended to tell his Iranian counterpart that the aid worker, who has joint British and Iranian citizenship, should be reunited with her husband Richard and their four-year-old daughter Gabriella

Mr Hunt intended to tell his Iranian counterpart that the aid worker, who has joint British and Iranian citizenship, should be reunited with her husband Richard and their four-year-old daughter Gabriella

Mr Hunt intended to tell his Iranian counterpart that the aid worker, who has joint British and Iranian citizenship, should be reunited with her husband Richard and their four-year-old daughter Gabriella

‘So I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders – putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage.’

At least two other British-Iranians are thought to be in prison in Iran. Businessman Kamal Foroughi, 79, was arrested in 2011 and convicted of espionage and alcohol possession charges.

And in March this year, Iran said it had sentenced an unidentified ‘agent of England’s intelligence service’ to six years in jail.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family has previously been highly critical of the Government’s approach, with ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson coming in for particular criticism over his handling of the case.

But they have welcomed a recent escalation in attempts to pressure Tehran.

Jeremy Hunt will tell Iranian counterparts the aid worker should be reunited with her husband

Jeremy Hunt will tell Iranian counterparts the aid worker should be reunited with her husband

Richard Ratcliffe talks to demonstrators after following a march in support of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Richard Ratcliffe talks to demonstrators after following a march in support of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Mr Hunt (left) will tell counterparts the aid worker, who has joint British and Iranian citizenship, should be reunited with her husband Richard (right)

Mr Hunt is expected to explicitly raise her plight during meetings with Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif and other high-ranking officials.

His diplomatic push comes after Theresa May used a meeting with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani at the UN general assembly in September to call for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. Mr Hunt also used the New York conference to press his counterpart for a ‘swift resolution’.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, a manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation charity, was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 as she was about to board a flight back to London after visiting family.

She was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, which she strenuously denies.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, which she strenuously denies (pictured: Richard Ratcliffe in 2017)

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, which she strenuously denies (pictured: Richard Ratcliffe in 2017)

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, which she strenuously denies (pictured: Richard Ratcliffe in 2017)

She was reunited with Gabriella, who is living with her grandparents in Tehran, during a three-day temporary release in August.

After being forced back to jail, she has suffered health problems and panic attacks.

Her husband, who has campaigned tirelessly for her release, says the detention is having a worsening effect.

In a letter to the Iranian authorities, he said: ‘She wished she had never been released. She said she felt like one of the radical Islamists’ captives – as though she had been paraded on the balcony then hidden back away.’

During his visit, the first by a Western foreign minister since the US pulled out of a nuclear deal, Mr Hunt will call for Iran to end ‘destabilising activity’ in the Middle East.

The UK has expressed alarm at Donald Trump’s decision to re-impose sanctions.

Mr Hunt said: ‘The nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran.

‘We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. But we also need to see an end to destabilising activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces.’