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Free Nazanin: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe given diplomatic protection as Jeremy Hunt ups pressure on Iran

PUBLISHED: 22:30 07 March 2019

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since 2016. Picture: Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since 2016. Picture: Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

PA Wire/PA Images

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now subject to the UK's diplomatic protection, the Foreign Office announced today,

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

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has made the decision, which Nazanin’s husband Richard and NGOs including Amnesty International and Redress have been calling for throughout her imprisonment.

Diplomatic protection means UK government are now treating Nazanin’s case as a legal dispute between states, and this affords her far greater rights and makes it easier for UK government representatives to meet with her.

It is a move that will ratchet up the pressure on the Iranian authorities, who have held Nazanin as a political prisoner in the notorious Evin prison for almost three years.

Jeremy Hunt called Richard Ratcliffe today to inform him of the news.

Richard told this newspaper: “We are very pleased with the Foreign Secretary’s decision – though need to see what happens next with Iran’s reaction.”

The foreign office argue the legal proceedings brought against Nazanin by have not met international standards, and reiterated dismay that she has not been given the medical treatment she desperately needs.

Jeremy Hunt said: “Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an innocent woman who has spent the last three years in an Iranian jail, separated from her daughter and husband. We have been working hard to secure her release but despite repeated efforts have not been successful.

“We have not even been able to secure her the medical treatment she urgently needs despite assurances to the contrary.

“So I have today decided that the UK will take a step that is extremely unusual and exercise diplomatic protection.”

He added that he had not taken the decision lightly and called Iran’s treatment of the West Hampstead mum “unacceptable”.

He said this decision should be a message to Tehran that “its behaviour is totally wrong”.

The minister added: “It is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result. But it demonstrates to the whole world that Nazanin is innocent and the UK will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly.”

Earlier this year Nazanin went on hunger strike in protest at the fact she has been unable to get treatment for a lump she has found in her breast, pain in her back, and mental health complaints – even though plans for external hospital appointments were signed off by the prison doctor.

She was arrested while on holiday with daughter Gabriella in April 2016, she was visiting her parents. She was jailed for five years by Iran on charges of plotting against the regime, which she flat-out denies. 
Since then, Gabriella has been living apart from both of her parents, as husband Richard has never been granted a visa to travel to Iran.

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