Britain's Johnson to meet husband of aid worker jailed in Iran

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Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen in an undated photograph handed out by her family

Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen in an undated photograph handed out by her family. Ratcliffe Family Handout via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - British foreign minister Boris Johnson will on Wednesday meet the husband of an aid worker jailed in Iran to discuss granting diplomatic protection to her as part of an effort to secure her release from prison.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges.

Johnson came under pressure to resign after comments he made earlier this month that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching people journalism before her arrest in April 2016. Critics said the comments might have prompted Iran to extend her sentence. He apologised for his remarks on Monday.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News, said Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on holiday and had not been teaching journalism in Iran.

On Wednesday, a statement from Britain's Foreign Office said Johnson would meet Richard Ratcliffe to discuss the government's efforts "to secure her release on humanitarian grounds".

It said Johnson had sought advice from officials on whether conferring the status of diplomatic protection could help, "including what impact it would have on the support currently being provided and the representations already being made on Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's behalf".

A legal opinion prepared for the human rights charity Redress on Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case said the British government could grant her diplomatic protection as she is "predominantly" a British citizen who has been denied a fair trial.

It is unclear how Tehran would view such a step, which would explicitly make Zaghari-Ratcliffe's fate an issue in state-to-state relations rather than a purely consular case.


(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Gareth Jones)