Husband of Briton jailed in Iran meets Boris Johnson to discuss release efforts

The husband of jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has gone to the Foreign Office for talks with Boris Johnson on efforts to secure her return from Iran.

Richard Ratcliffe is expected to press for his wife to be offered formal diplomatic protection status, in order to allow ministers to act "much more stridently" to support her.

The Foreign Secretary has apologised for the "distress" and "suffering" he caused by his suggestion that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran, which has exposed her to the threat of her five-year jail sentence being doubled.

Mr Ratcliffe is expected to raise the continued coverage of Mr Johnson's comments in the Iranian media and will seek to clarify the position on any new charges she faces.

Mr Johnson's comments had led to calls for him to quit, but Mr Ratcliffe has said it is not in his wife's interests for there to be any resignations, and instead the Foreign Secretary should clean up the mess he had created.

The Foreign Secretary told MPs on Monday there were "overwhelming" humanitarian grounds for her release and stressed that she was in Iran on holiday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family handout/PA)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family handout/PA)

Mr Johnson is expected to use the meeting to discuss Mr Ratcliffe's request for his wife to be given diplomatic protection.

Under international law, diplomatic protection status could see the case raised to the level of a state-to-state dispute between the UK and Iran rather than a consular matter concerning an individual.

The Foreign Secretary has sought advice from officials to determine whether conferring the status would help, including what impact it would have on the support currently being provided and the representations already being made on Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's behalf.

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The meeting will also discuss concerns about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's health and Mr Johnson's plan to travel to Iran before the end of the year.

Also at the meeting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London was Middle East minister Alistair Burt, who has met Mr Ratcliffe before and visited Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family in Tehran, and FCO consular officials who have been providing support to the family.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 as she tried to leave Tehran with her young daughter Gabriella following a trip to see family in Iran.

Pleased to meet family of detained #Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe while in Tehran and present Gabriella with gifts from her family in the UK

-- Alistair Burt (@AlistairBurtUK) August 6, 2017

The 38-year-old dual-national charity worker was accused of plotting to topple the regime, which she denies, and was later sentenced to five years in prison.

Mr Ratcliffe hopes to accompany the Foreign Secretary on his forthcoming trip to Tehran.

He told the Press Association on Monday: "I think it is really important that he is making very clear signals that he is going to Iran, and that he goes to Iran and raises Nazanin's case as a top priority. It is also important that I can go with him. Now that is not entirely in his gift, but it is something that we discussed privately and we will discuss again."

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