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Aras Amiri: Foreign secretary 'very concerned' about Crouch End woman jailed in Iran alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 May 2019

Aras Amiri. Picture: Courtesy of the Centre for Human Rights in Iran

Aras Amiri. Picture: Courtesy of the Centre for Human Rights in Iran

Archant

The Foreign Secretary yesterday said he was "very, very concerned" by the plight of a detained British resident - Crouch End's Aras Amiri.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA.Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA.

Iranian national Aras, 33, was sentenced to ten years in a Tehran jail for what her MP Catherine West called "trumped up" charges of spying for the UK.

She has been imprisoned in the same section of the notorious Evin prison as West Hampstead's Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Catherine West - who along with Nazanin's MP Tulip Siddiq wrote a letter to Jeremy Hunt calling on him to do more as Iran was "not taking the UK's Diplomatic Protection seriously" - has pledged to do "whatever she can" to help Aras' family.

The foreign office confirmed it would be meeting Aras's family this week.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin CampaignForeign Secretary Jeremy Hunt meets Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter Gabriella. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

Catherine West told this newspaper: "At the moment the question is how much of what we are hearing from Iran is real. Who is saying what in Iran and how much is simply opinion? I am also seeking a meeting with the Iranian Ambassador to the UK.

"Aras is as good as a British citizen, she is eligible, and it's important to think about her as an employee of the British Council.

"My key issue when I go in to meet Jeremy Hunt with the family will be what more can the FCO be doing.

"This is a very tough situation for my constituent, her family is absolutely distraught and I will be doing whatever I can for them."

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe  with daughter Gabriella during Nazanin's furlough. Picture: Free Nazanin CampaignNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with daughter Gabriella during Nazanin's furlough. Picture: Free Nazanin Campaign

Aras was arrested on holiday in Iran visiting a sick relative in March last year.

Replying to the Hornsey and Wood Green MP's question about Aras in the House of Commons, minister Mark Field said there would be a meeiting this week and added: "We deeply regret Iran's attitude towards entirely legitimate organisations, such as the British Council."

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His boss Jeremy Hunt said later: "We are awaiting details but I am proposing to meet relatives of the individual later this week because we're very, very concerned about what's happened and then we'll do everything we can to support them."

The case bears many similarities with Nazanin's, and Richard Ratcliffe slammed the latest moves from Tehran.

He said: "It's a really really shocking case. To be essentially convicted of having a job in London is just outrageous."

Referring to Nazanin's second spying case being re-opened, Iranian authorities ignoring her medical test results, and the news of Aras's sentencing, he added: "We have now had three bits of bad news in a week. They are sending a message to the British government. It's so clear that these are not individual cases.

"The UK needs to show that we're serious about the diplomatic protection, now. And the UK also needs to work with other countries affected by this hostage diplomacy."

Tulip Siddiq said Aras' treatment was "upsetting but unfortunately very familiar". She continued: "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has endured a similar ordeal and I am concerned that her freedom may be many years away. Iran's judiciary must stop acting in this way and should show compassion to the innocent women whose lives are being destroyed."

A spokesperson for the Center for Human Rights in Iran said: "Ms. Amiri and Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe were both imprisoned on scant "evidence" under trumped-up charges in trials sorely lacking in international standards of due process.

"For as long as European countries are quiet about arbitrary arrests in Iran, hardline security forces there will continue to take Iranian nationals with foreign ties as political pawns to be used as negotiating chips on the international stage.

"These countries should all band together and call on Iran's government to stop these arrests and make the security and judicial establishment accountable to the public.

"The time to speak out isn't later, it's now."

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