Jeremy Hunt has met with the daughter of imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during his first trip to Iran as Foreign Secretary.
Photos of the Cabinet minister playing with four-year-old Gabriella were shared on Twitter by the campaign to free the British-Iranian citizen, who was handed a five-year jail sentence in 2016 over spying charges, which she denies.
In a tweet sharing the images, the campaign thanked Hunt for meeting the family, and for “bringing gifts for both Gabriella and Nazanin”, adding Zaghari-Ratcliffe had also made a doll for Hunt’s daughter from behind bars.
Sharing the photos, Hunt later tweeted: “No child should have to go this long without their mother. #FreeNazanin”.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016 and later sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying, a charge she vehemently denies.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has campaigned exhaustively for her release, saying she is suffering extreme mental and physical hardship at the notorious Elvin prison.
Hunt first pressed his counterpart, Mohammad Zarif on her case in September when they met in New York on the fringes of a United Nations General Assembly.
The previous month she had been granted a three-day release but her request for an extension was denied and she was forced to say goodbye to her four-year-old daughter and return to jail.
Hunt is the first western foreign minister to visit Iran since the US pulled out of a nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Tehran.
Hunt, who arrive in Iran on Monday, said: “More than anything, we must see those innocent British-Iranian dual nationals imprisoned in Iran returned to their families in Britain.
“I have just heard too many heartbreaking stories from families who have been forced to endure a terrible separation.
“So 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.”