Boris Johnson to voice 'grave concerns' about British woman jailed in Iran


Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will express "grave concerns" regarding jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during his visit to Iran.

Mr Johnson's trip to Tehran on Saturday is only the third by a UK Foreign Secretary since 2003 and comes at a time of tension in the Middle East over Donald Trump's announcement that he is recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In wide-ranging talks with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Mr Johnson will seek to shore up bilateral relations and urge Tehran to stick by the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.  (Ivan Sekretarev/AP/PA)
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Ivan Sekretarev/AP/PA)

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year sentence over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government, having been arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show her baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.

Reports suggest she could appear in court again on Sunday, following threats to increase her sentence by five years following Mr Johnson's gaffe of telling a parliamentary committee that she had been in Iran to train journalists. He later acknowledged this was not the case.

Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said he was "waiting on tenterhooks, biting my nails" ahead of Mr Johnson's arrival in Iran.

Boris Johnson meets Richard Ratcliffe. (Stefan Rousseau/PA )
Boris Johnson meets Richard Ratcliffe. (Stefan Rousseau/PA )

"I'm really pleased he is there in time for Nazanin's trial and waiting to see what will happen. I'm certainly hopeful but I'm trying not to be expectant," he told The Guardian.

It is understood that Mr Ratcliffe has not accompanied Mr Johnson on his trip after receiving advice that it may not help his chances of seeing his wife in prison.

"If I'm blunt, it is better that he is there in time for her trial than he and I go there after her trial and she's been sentenced to more years," he told the newspaper.

When the couple last spoke by telephone on Tuesday, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "genuinely worried about the court case and getting quite agitated," her husband said.

Richard Ratcliffe. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)
Richard Ratcliffe. (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

Mr Ratcliffe told the newspaper that Mr Johnson will attempt to visit his wife in jail and meet the head of the Iranian judiciary.

However Tehran does not recognise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's dual UK-Iranian nationality, and refuses access to her for representatives of the British authorities, making a prison visit for the Foreign Secretary unlikely during the trip.

Mr Johnson said he wanted the visit to be "constructive", however he admitted that "on many issues we will not agree" despite improvements to relations in recent years.

Had a positive meeting with Richard Ratcliffe about UK efforts to help his wife Nazanin. We will continue to leave no stone unturned in our work on all our Iranian consular cases

-- Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 15, 2017

He said: "Iran is a significant country in a strategically important, but volatile and unstable, region which matters to the UK's security and prosperity.

"My first visit is an opportunity to hold further discussions on a series of crucial issues, including how we can find a political solution to the devastating conflict in Yemen and secure greater humanitarian access to ease the immense suffering there.

"I will also underline the UK's continued support for the nuclear deal while making clear our concerns about some of Iran's activity in the region.

"We will also discuss our bilateral relationship and I will stress my grave concerns about our dual national consular cases and press for their release where there are humanitarian grounds to do so."