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UK mulls diplomatic protection for mother jailed in Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard said a court appearance after British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's remarks had left his wife "very stressed and upset"
Handout (Free Nazanin campaign/AFP/File)
This is the latest bid by Richard Ratcliffe to have his wife freed after 19 months in a Tehran prison.

Britain said it is considering diplomatic protection for a British woman jailed in Iran after her husband on Wednesday met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for the first time.

Seeking diplomatic protection for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has British and Iranian nationality, is the latest bid by Richard Ratcliffe to have her freed after 19 months in a Tehran prison.

"I said I thought it would be important and helpful. The foreign secretary and foreign office expressed reservations," Ratcliffe told journalists in London, following an hour-long meeting with Johnson.

But the foreign ministry in a statement said lawyers would meet within two weeks to discuss the prospect.

"The key question is whether diplomatic protection will have a positive impact on the case," it said.

Johnson has faced calls to resign over his handling of the case, after saying last week that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran.

Johnson later told MPs she was on holiday visiting family but his earlier comments were seized upon by the Iranian judiciary to justify her detention.


                  

 'A bargaining chip' 

Stefan Rousseau (POOL/AFP/File)
                  

Ratcliffe said there was now "a level of focus and attention that is moving things forward".

But he said Johnson would not guarantee whether he could accompany him on an official visit to Iran, expected before the end of the year.

Ratcliffe has failed to obtain a visa to travel to Iran and visit his wife and three-year-old daughter, Gabriella, whose British passport was confiscated on her mother's arrest.

The girl is being looked after by her grandparents in Iran.

"For me it's very important to be going on that trip and be standing next to the foreign secretary. I understand that's a big ask," Ratcliffe said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year sentence for sedition and she is also facing additional charges.

Seeing herself portrayed as a spy in Iranian media is having an impact on her health, her husband said.

"She talks about being on the verge of a nervous breakdown," he said. "Her family spoke to her yesterday. She was clearly very traumatised from watching the television."

In addition to mental health concerns, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has undergone tests for breast cancer while in prison and is due to see a specialist again last this month.

Ratcliffe said his wife was "used as a bargaining chip" between the two governments.

"There are fights that are nothing to do with us. She's a vehicle for those fights."

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