UK

May tells Rouhani: Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailing raises 'serious concerns'

PM’s comments during talks in New York follow Jeremy Hunt’s call for her swift release

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with daughter Gabriella. Theresa May has pressed Iran’s president over her detention.




Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with daughter Gabriella. Theresa May has pressed Iran’s president over her detention.
Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Theresa May has increased the pressure on Iran to release a jailed charity worker during talks in New York.

Theresa May told Iranian president Hassan Rouhani she had “serious concerns” about the jailing of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The British-Iranian mother was sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying by Tehran’s Islamist regime, a charge she vehemently denies.

In talks on the fringes of the United Nations general assembly, May called for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. It came after foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt demanded rapid action to secure her freedom in his first face-to-face meeting with Iran’s foreign minister.

Hunt told Javad Zarif that Zaghari-Ratcliffe must be returned home quickly. In a statement during talks in New York, he said: “I again pressed for Nazanin’s swift release. She deserves to be back at home with her family.” It was “absolutely essential” the Iranian government took steps to ensure the release of “a number of detained dual nationals”, he added.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was detained at Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016. Last month she was granted a three-day release from Evin prison but her request for an extension was denied and she was forced to say goodbye to her four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, and return to jail.

Husband Richard Ratcliffe wrote an open letter to Zarif calling the short release a “cruel game”.

May also used her meeting with Rouhani to underline the UK’s commitment to the Iran nuclear deal. Britain and its European allies responded with dismay to Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that relieved sanctions on Tehran in return for an end to Iran’s military nuclear ambitions.

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