UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has accused Iran of keeping a British-Iranian dual national in prison as a tool for diplomatic leverage, calling it “monstrous.”
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 at the international airport in Tehran, when she was leaving the country after a visit with her family. She was charged with ambiguous accusations of spying and plotting against the Islamic Republic and sentenced to five years in prison.
Repeated pleas by her husband in Britain, by the British government and international rights groups have gone unanswered and Zaghari-Ratclife spent her 40th birthday in an Iranian prison this week.
In an interview with BBC’s Radio 4 on December 28, Hunt said: “Nazanin isn’t the only person who is being detained, despite being totally innocent, as a pawn of diplomatic leverage", adding, "This is monstrous, it is totally unjust.”
Hunt also criticized Iran for violating basic international norms: “Iran is a country which has a great civilization behind it. One of the oldest civilizations in the world. They want to be respected by other countries. This is not the way to do it – to imprison an innocent woman like this – and I really hope they will think again.”
“We have diplomatic differences with many countries across the world, but we don’t have other countries who lock up innocent people as a tool of diplomatic leverage, and it has to stop.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation – the media organization’s philanthropic arm – is the mother of a four-year-old daughter and has not been an opposition activist.
Hunt who visited Iran in November and met with her family, later tweeted, "No child should have to go this long without their mother” and added, "British-Iranian dual nationals wrongly imprisoned must be freed".