British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who arrived in Tehran on Monday for talks on the fate of the 2015 nuclear deal, said Iranian authorities must stop using dual citizens as political tools and called for the immediate release of prisoners including charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Sky News reported.
“I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage,” Hunt said before a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“More than anything, we must see those innocent British-Iranian dual-nationals imprisoned in Iran returned to their families in Britain,” the minister added. “I have just heard too many heartbreaking stories from families who have been forced to endure a terrible separation.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was separated from her toddler daughter Gabriella, and arrested in April 2016, while preparing to depart from Tehran’s international airport. She had been in Iran visiting her family. She was sentenced to five years in jail for allegedly working to overthrow the Iranian regime. Iranian authorities said that Ratcliffe will face a new trial for further security-related offenses.
Hunt has twice met Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, who has campaigned exhaustively for his wife’s release.
In August, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was granted a three-day furlough from jail to reunite with her daughter, before authorities ordered her back to the notorious Evin Prison. Her husband said the family has decided not to apply for further temporary releases because of the extreme mental and physical hardship Zaghari-Ratcliffe has suffered.
Iran has a long history of hostage-taking and arresting dual nationals on suspicious charges and using them as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West. Reuters reported last November that the Islamic Republic has arrested at least 30 dual-nationals since the nuclear deal was agreed to in 2015. Ratcliffe’s ordeal helped prompt the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to upgrade its warning in 2016 to citizens not to visit Iran out of concern that they could be “arbitrarily detained.”
[Photo: PressTV ]