• 19:35
  • 21.11.2019
Boris vows to free woman jailed in Iran

Boris vows to free woman jailed in Iran

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Foreign minister Boris Johnson says Britain would appeal to Iran on humanitarian grounds to free a jailed aid worker but expressed reservations that granting her diplomatic protection would help secure her release, her husband says.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges.
Johnson came under pressure to resign after comments he made earlier this month that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching people journalism before her arrest in April 2016. Critics said the comments might have prompted Iran to extend her sentence and he apologised for his remarks on Monday.
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The Thomson Reuters Foundation said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on holiday and had not been teaching journalism in Iran.
On Wednesday, Johnson met her husband Richard Ratcliffe and told him Britain would leave no stone unturned in its bid to free her, saying the British ambassador in Tehran had earlier raised her case again with the Iranian authorities.
Johnson also stressed the importance of an appeal on humanitarian grounds, Ratcliffe told reporters, saying it had been a positive meeting.
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But officials had questioned whether it would help to grant his wife diplomatic protection - a move that would explicitly make Zaghari-Ratcliffe's fate an issue in state-to-state relations rather than a purely consular case.
"I said I thought it would be important and helpful ... the foreign secretary and the Foreign Office expressed reservations," Ratcliffe said. The Foreign Office said lawyers would meet in the next fortnight to discuss the issue further.
Ratcliffe said Johnson was "keen" to take him on a trip to Iran planned before the end of the year, which could allow him to see his wife and three-year-old daughter who is being cared for by relatives in Iran, for the first time in 19 months.
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Ratcliffe, who said his wife appeared to be on the edge of a nervous breakdown and was due to have further tests after finding lumps on her breasts, said he thought she was being used as a diplomatic bargaining chip.
"There are fights that are nothing to do with us ... we're being used as a vehicle for those fights," he said.
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