Jeremy Hunt has vowed to do everything we can to bring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman being held in an Iranian jail, home following a meeting with her family.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said the meeting was a “positive start” and that Hunt seemed sincere in his promise to keep his wife’s case a priority.
Nazanin, a charity worker for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2016 after being accused of seeking a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic republic. She has always maintained her innocence.
Last month Ratcliffe expressed concerns when Boris Johnson resigned as foreign secretary and said it had complicated the issue of her release.
At the time, Johnson was due to decide whether to offer Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection. But his resignation scuppered the family’s hopes for an imminent decision on the application.
In a tweet, Hunt said met Ratcliffe and other members of their family on Thursday to discuss the “shocking and desperate” situation.
He praised them and Nazanin for the “extraordinary strength and resilience” they had shown.
In a statement about the meeting, Ratcliffe said Hunt had a clear understanding of the case.
He added: “Mr Hunt was also straight with us, also about his concerns. He encouraged his staff to be the same. It felt like a positive start.”
“On diplomatic protection, we await the foreign secretary’s decision soon. I said to the foreign secretary, for me the greatest risks for Nazanin at this
point are inertia and despair.
“Our situation is pretty clear, as is the limit of Nazanin, and all of us in the end, to endure it. My job in the campaign is to avoid both of these risks – to keep challenging both governments to find a solution, to keep showing hope that she is protected.”
Nazanin’s mother-in-law Barbara Ratcliffe said she came out of the meeting more content than when she went in and that it had given her hope.
Geoffrey Dive, Ratcliffe’s uncle and a constituent of Hunt, said it was the fifth time he had met him about Nazanin’s case. He said he was grateful that now Hunt was foreign secretary he continued to “show the same concern” for her safety as he did during their constituency meetings.
Dive added: “I hope as foreign secretary he can find a way to resolve the issues which are still preventing her release. Our family is relying on him.”
At Nazanin’s request, the family also presented the new foreign secretary with a painted stone for his office.
She hoped the stone, which had been decorated in front of the Foreign Office on Mother’s Day, would serve as a reminder of the promise he inherited from his predecessor to leave no stone unturned in her case.
Nazanin has always maintained she was in Iran to introduce her daughter, Gabriella, to her parents. Her husband has seen neither his wife nor daughter since she was detained in 2016.
He said: “These ongoing games remain a kind of psychological torture of continual ups and downs, and pressures impacting on Nazanin.”