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Foreign Minister Joins Carols For Britons Held Abroad

IRAN -- Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe embraces her daughter Gabriella in Damavand, following her release from prison for three day, August 23, 2018
London, Dec 18, 2018 (AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday joined carol-singing campaigners at a demonstration in front of Downing Street for detained Britons abroad including British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

An employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 and is serving out a five-year jail sentence for sedition -- a charge she has constantly denied.

"I want to pay tribute to all the families campaigning for innocent people detained abroad," Hunt told dozens of campaigners who stood in the pouring rain.

"This is something the Foreign Office is working very hard on, in public and private," he said.

A small Christmas tree at the event was decorated with messages of support and will later be delivered to the Foreign Office "as a repository of our dreams," said Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard.

Richard Ratcliffe, who was attending the event for a third Christmas running, told AFP that his jailed wife was "pretty fragile" as the holiday season begins.

"We all kind of know what each other's going through and that people still care... so that lifts you up," he said.

Matt Hedges, a British academic who was imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates for seven months this year for spying before being released last month, also attended the event with his wife Daniela Tejada.

"Strong as I tried to be for Matt, there were plenty of times when I felt defeated and hopeless," Tejada said.

"Sometimes, in spite of my endless work and fighting for his freedom, I didn't think that I'd have my husband back home for Christmas," she said.