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Aras Amiri and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: MPs slam 'hostage diplomacy' after second north London woman given 10 years in Iran jail

PUBLISHED: 09:49 14 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 14 May 2019

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

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An Iranian national understood to be Crouch End's Aras Amiri has been jailed for 10 years - in the same week that the government in Tehran reopened its second spying case against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Ms Amiri, an employee of the British Council, was detained in Iran - like Nazanin - when on holiday in March 2018, and she is now being held in the same section of Evin prison as Nazanin.

Last night the constituency MPs of both women - Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) and Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) - wrote a joint letter to foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to challenge Iran over "their hostage diplomacy".

The MPs wrote: "The sentencing today of an innocent British Council worker follows years of similar treatment towards Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and many other British nationals. Their cases are a sharp reminder of Iran's sustained policy to target and abuse the rights of innocents for their links to the UK.

"As the constituency MPs for the two individuals affected we are clear that this increasing use of arbitrary detention cannot be solved by euphemism, but by setting clear boundaries and demanding accountability."

Meanwhile, the jail term handed down to an Ms Amiri, an Iranian national, who is also accused of spying for Britain, is "a real slap in the face", Nazanin's husband Richard said.

He said it was "outrageous" that - accused of passing sensitive information to the British Council - she was convicted and given a 10-year jail term.

Nazanin is part-way through her own five-year jail sentence after being accused of spying by Tehran's Islamist regime, a charge she vehemently denies.

Richard added: "It is outrageous, really - the UK needs to step up and protect citizens.

"Nazanin called me last night to say that somebody was being taken down from the cells to be sentenced by the judge.

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"She was very despondent."

This comes after medical tests - demanded by Nazanin when she went on hunger strike earlier this year - were deemed void by the Iranian state, Richard said.

"It's a clear example of hostage diplomacy not being there. Diplomatic protection needs to show that it means something.

"To be fair, the court process is nonsense and the health process is nonsense.

"This is about making it clear to the UK that Nazanin and others are being held as bargaining chips."

He said he will be speaking to foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt in the coming days in an attempt to push for a development in his wife's case.

Last month Iran's foreign minister suggested Nazanin could be released as part of a prisoner swap.

However, he subsequently backed down from the suggestion.

Mr Hunt has already granted her diplomatic protection.

But Tehran refuses to acknowledge her dual nationality and said the UK's actions were illegal.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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