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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Boris Johnson hints at progress over jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after visiting Iran

The British Foreign Secretary met with President Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian officials in Tehran last weekend

Jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella. Free Nazanin Campaign/ AFP Photo
Jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella. Free Nazanin Campaign/ AFP Photo

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said his recent trip to Iran was “worthwhile”, adding that his government would do everything they could to secure the release of British nationals jailed in the country.

Mr Johnson spoke to the House of Commons on Monday after a three-day trip to the Middle East, in which he travelled to the UAE, Oman and Iran.

The British minister met with President Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian officials in Tehran to discuss jailed dual nationals including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a mother-of-one who was jailed in 2016 for espionage.

"I urged their release, on humanitarian grounds, where there is cause to do so," Mr Johnson told the British parliament.

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"These are complex cases involving individuals considered by Iran to be their own citizens, and I do not wish to raise false hopes. But my meetings in Tehran were worthwhile," he said.

Mr Johnson said he it was not appropriate to “provide a running commentary”.

He added: “The House can be assured the Government will leave no stone unturned to secure their release.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned for nearly two years in Tehran, accused of plotting the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while travelling there with her toddler daughter.

Last month, Mr Johnson mistakenly claimed the 39-year-old had been training journalists in the country. He later retracted the comment and apologised.

Mr Johnson’s mistake led to calls for him to resign should Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s five-year sentence be extended because of his remark.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said on Monday that the aid worker would serve her sentence as determined by the judiciary.

"One of the issues that Johnson brought up in Tehran was the issue of Ms Zaghari," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi was quoted by state media as saying.

"With regard to her dual nationality, from our point of view of course she is Iranian and she has been sentenced by the judiciary and she will serve the period of her sentence."

Mr Qassemi said that while the matter would be followed up on humanitarian grounds, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case would be decided by the judiciary.