UK foreign secretary locks horns with Iran over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Britain has decided to grant diplomatic protection to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in an effort to stress London’s belief that Iran treats it in an “unacceptable” unfair manner, UK head of diplomacy Jeremy Hunt said.

Foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, judged Tehran was not meeting its human rights obligations to the British-Iranian dual national under international humanitarian law.

The 40-year-old Briton, a Thomson Reuters Foundation official, was arrested on April 3, 2016 at Tehran Airport, where she had gone with her little daughter, Gabriela, after a visit she had made to her family.

She was sentenced in September 2016 to serving a five-year prison sentence for her 2009 participation in demonstrations aimed at overthrowing the regime and for espionage, which she denied.

Her sentence was ratified by an appeal court in April 2017. her health situation deteriorated. In January, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said she found a lump in her chest, complaining that her limbs were numb. In the same month, Zagari-Ratcliffe staged a three-day hunger strike in protest of the conditions of her detention and the pressure, she says, to become a spy for the Islamic Republic.

Admitting the step was “very unusual”, Hunt added: “I have not taken this decision lightly. I have considered the unacceptable treatment Nazanin has received over three years, including not just lack of access to medical treatment, but also lack of due process in proceedings brought against her”.

He said the step was a signal that “Tehran’s behaviour is totally wrong”.

He admitted “the measure is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result. But it demonstrates that Britain will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly”.

He added: “Iran was an ancient civilisation, but no government should use innocent individuals as pawns for diplomatic leverage.”