Foreign Secretary demands rapid release of jailed charity worker

The Foreign Secretary has demanded rapid action leading to the release of a jailed charity worker in Tehran in his first face-to-face meeting with Iran’s foreign minister.

Jeremy Hunt put pressure on Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif to ensure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a meeting in New York on Tuesday, where leaders are currently gathered for the United Nations General Assembly.

The British-Iranian mother was sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying by Tehran’s Islamist regime, a charge she vehemently denies.

“I again pressed for Nazanin’s swift release – she deserves to be back at home with her family,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.

It is also “absolutely essential” the Iranian government take steps to ensure the release of “a number of detained dual nationals”, he added.

Jeremy Hunt pledged to do everything possible to secure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release after he became Foreign Secretary.

It followed criticism of predecessor Boris Johnson’s handling of attempts to free the mother-of-one.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to make a personal plea for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe to be released on humanitarian grounds to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani later on Tuesday.

A senior Government official said: “The PM will express serious concern at Nazanin’s on-going detention and call for her to be released upon humanitarian grounds.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was detained at Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016.

Last month she was granted a three-day release from Evin prison but her request for an extension was denied and she was forced to say goodbye to her four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, and return to jail.

Husband Richard Ratcliffe wrote an open letter to Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif calling the short release a “cruel game”.

- Press Association

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