Johnson to meet husband of Briton jailed in Iran

Boris Johnson is to hold a potentially tense meeting with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, who has called on him to solve the "mess" he has created over his wife's imprisonment in Iran.

Richard Ratcliffe hit out this week after Iran reacted to Mr Johnson wrongly claiming Nazanin was "training journalists" by hauling her back to court and threatening to increase her jail term to five years.

According to the Foreign Office, the meeting will cover Mr Ratcliffe's request that the Government considers extending "diplomatic protection" to his wife, who was arrested in April last year during a holiday in Iran with her young daughter.

"The Foreign Secretary has sought advice from officials to determine whether conferring the status could help, including what impact it would have on the support currently being provided and the representations already being made on Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's behalf," said the FCO.

The Foreign Office also said Mr Ratcliffe and Mr Johnson would discuss Nazanin's health and the Foreign Secretary's plan to travel to Iran before the end of the year, when Mr Ratcliffe hopes to accompany him.

Image:Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, husband Richard Ratcliffe and their child.

Also attending the meeting at the Foreign Office will be the Middle East Minister Alistair Burt – who has met Mr Ratcliffe before and visited Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family in Tehran – and diplomats who have been in contact with the family.

"The Foreign Office remains very concerned about all our dual nationals detained in Iran and is doing everything it can in each of their cases, including trying to secure access to them and ensure their welfare," said the FCO.

"The Government will continue to do this in the way that we judge is in their best interests and the Foreign Secretary has made it clear that no stone should be left unturned.

"The UK Government has regularly raised all of our Iranian consular cases at the highest levels within the Iranian Government, including the Prime Minister raising the case with President Rouhani during the UN General Assembly in September."

Boris Johnson offers some clarity to the House of Commons on his comments on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Image:Boris Johnson wrongly said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran teaching journalism

In an open letter to Mr Johnson this week, Mr Ratcliffe said: "I would like us to discuss the practicalities of my coming with you when you travel to Iran to visit Nazanin, a trip that I hope will be made as soon as possible.

"That means you personally asking the Iranian authorities if I can travel with you, and asking them to vouch for my safety."

And he bluntly told the Foreign Secretary: "Your mistake in saying that Nazanin was in Iran training journalists – as opposed to the reality: that she was there on holiday with our daughter Gabriella, visiting her family – has raised the stakes for my wife.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and daughter Gabriella
Image:Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her daughter were trying to return from a holiday when she was arrested

"Your words are being used against her by Tehran to rationalise her imprisonment and as grounds for a new court case against her.

"She was on the news in Iran again on Saturday night; the broadcaster repeated the argument that you had "revealed" Nazanin's so-called crimes.

"The net effect of that is that she is in danger. I want you to solve this mess created in your name."

:: Black hole of evil – My life in Nazanin's prison

Mr Ratcliffe added: "My wife is angry now. She has been in prison for 19 months. She has lost control of her emotions because she has lost all control over her life. Now she has become even more tense and stressed because she's seen herself on Iranian State TV.

"She cried over the coverage and felt it was a violation that they used pictures from our family photo album. It is too much pressure on her. She feels on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

"The stress is taking a physical toll on her. She went to hospital on Saturday for an ultrasound because she had found lumps in both her breasts. The lumps are believed to be benign but related to stress.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Image:Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Iran in April last year

"Nazanin is being held because she is British and is being used as a bargaining chip against the UK, now justified by your words. That direct connection of her to you is why I believe my wife should be entitled to diplomatic protection – rather than consular assistance, as she has now.

"Nazanin is no longer simply a consular case as she has been endangered in a deeper way. As Foreign Secretary, I would like you to instruct your department personally to give her that protection."

Answering an urgent question in the Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson told MPs: "I spoke by phone to her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, yesterday, and we agreed to meet later this week. I told Mr Ratcliffe that the whole country is behind him and we all want to see his wife home safely."

On Mr Ratcliffe's plea for diplomatic protection for his wife, the Foreign Secretary said: "All I can say is that I will be answering Mr Ratcliffe. I cannot give her an answer today; I would rather answer Mr Ratcliffe in person."

He added: "I pay tribute to Richard Ratcliffe and the indefatigable way in which he has campaigned for his wife's release.

"The door of the Foreign Office has been continually open to him, and he has had several meetings – many, I believe – with my fellow Ministers.

"He will continue to have full access until such time as we sort out the appalling case of his wife."

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