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  1. ITV Report

Husband of Briton Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe describes meeting with Foreign Secretary as 'positive'

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

The husband of a British mother imprisoned in Iran has described a meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as "positive and constructive".

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested as she tried to leave the country with her baby daughter Gabriella in 2016.

She was later jailed for five years on propaganda charges.

Richard Ratcliffe said he had pressed Mr Johnson to give diplomatic protection to his wife.

"He didn't personally give a long list of objections," Mr Ratcliffe said.

"I appreciate it's an escalation, but I think ... it's important that where softly-softly doesn't work, where it has been escalated by the past couple of weeks' events and the Foreign Secretary's words being used, I think it is appropriate."

"We agreed to keep talking about it," he added.

Richard Ratcliffe said the meeting with Mr Johnson was 'constructive'. Credit: PA

Mr Ratcliffe also said the Foreign Secretary has no fixed date for his planned visit to Iran, but was "keen" for him to accompany him.

He also expressed concern for his wife's state of health.

"She talks about being on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I absolutely believe that's true. I think it's important I don't exaggerate anything in the media and I'm not melodramatic, but she is in a difficult place."

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband has expressed concerns for her health.

Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, accompanied Mr Ratcliffe to the meeting, and said Mr Johnson had not ruled out a change to his wife's status.

Ms Siddiq, who is Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's MP, also described the meeting as "encouraging".

Richard Ratcliffe pictured outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Credit: PA

Richard Ratcliffe has previously said a change in his wife’s status would allow British officials to “more stridently” support her, part of an effort to secure her release from an Iranian prison.

Mr Johnson recentlyapologised after he suggested Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists while in Iran, comments that led Iranian authorities to threaten to double her five-year jail sentence.

There have been calls for Mr Johnson to quit in the wake of the gaffe, but Mr Ratcliffe said he should stay and clean up his mess.

Mr Johnson apologised for his remarks. Credit: PA

Should Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe be upgraded to diplomatic protection status, under international law the case would escalate to a state-to-state dispute, rather than a consular matter.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016 as she tried to leave Tehran after visiting her family.

The regime accused the 38-year-old dual-national charity worker of plotting to topple the government; she was later sentenced to five years in prison, despite denying the charges.

Members of Amnesty International held a vigil for the charity worker outside parliament. Credit: PA

"I think it is really important that he [Johnson] is making very clear signals that he is going to Iran, and that he goes to Iran and raises Nazanin's case as a top priority,” Mr Ratcliffe said on Monday.

"It is also important that I can go with him. Now that is not entirely in his gift, but it is something that we discussed privately and we will discuss again.

"It is important because of the signal it sends, because I can go to prison and he can come with me. That is very clear for an Iranian audience that Nazanin is not to be just left and abandoned and the British government is right behind her," he added.