United Kingdom foreign secretary to meet husband of British woman jailed in Iran

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Boris Johnson is "keen" for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband to accompany him to Iran as the United Kingdom ups its attempts to secure her release, Richard Ratcliffe has said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's fate become a major political issue in Britain after Johnson said on November 1 that she had been teaching people journalism before her arrest in April 2016, contradicting statements from her employer.

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 past year during a holiday in Iran with her young daughter.

It is unclear how Tehran would view such a step which would explicitly make Zaghari-Ratcliffe's fate an issue in state-to-state relations rather than a purely consular case.

He suggested Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was being used as a "bargaining chip" in a wider diplomatic dispute between London and Tehran.

Johnson had "made it clear that no stone should be left unturned" in securing her release, the statement added. I said it would be important and helpful.

"They are separate things but it is good for the atmosphere if they are all solved".

British ministers have rallied round Johnson but one of his allies, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, was accused of muddying the waters in a television interview on Sunday when he said he did not know what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran.

She has been detained since April 2016 and is one of eight people with dual Iranian and foreign nationality held in prison in Iran as of last month, according to the New York-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran.

Boris Johnson
ReutersBoris Johnson said his remarks were no cause for the Iranian regime to increase Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence

"But, as it turns out, they have not paid attention to the fact that the principle of political protection is applicable to the citizens of the protecting country; thus, in as much as, Zaghari has dual British-Iranian citizenship, and Iran doesn't recognise her British citizenship, the principle is fundamentally impractical".

"It's very important for me to go on that trip, to be standing alongside the Foreign Secretary, and I understand that's a big ask, it's reasonably unprecedented, but it's important for me".

Mr Ratcliffe said he was "hopeful" that Mr Johnson "will do everything he can to bring her home by Christmas". "She talked about being on the verge of a mental breakdown, and I absolutely think that's true".

He described himself as "muddling through" after 19 months trying to get his wife and daughter Gabriella back from Iran.

Speaking alongside his constituency MP Tulip Siddiq, Ratcliffe said Johnson was considering with lawyers diplomatic protection for his wife.

She said: "Gabriella has lost the ability to speak English now, so it is very hard for Richard and Gabriella to communicate". "They are talking via Skype, but. she doesn't speak English, [and] he doesn't speak Farsi".

The visit would also give him an opportunity to see his two-year-old daughter Gabriella, who was with her mother when she was arrested.

"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".

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