The UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has accused Iran of using Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned for 1,000 days, as a pawn for diplomatic leverage, The Guardian reported on Friday.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national from Hampstead, north London, has been held in Iran since April 2016. Tehran, which accused her of seeking to overthrow the government, has ignored repeated calls from her family and UK officials to release her.
Speaking on BBC’s Radio 4’s Today program on Friday, Hunt said: “Nazanin isn’t the only person who is being detained, despite being totally innocent, as a pawn of diplomatic leverage.
“On Boxing Day, Nazanin was 40 years old and she has been imprisoned for more than half of her four-year-old daughter’s life. This is monstrous, it is totally unjust.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was working for the Thomson Reuters Foundation when she was arrested at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran in 2016 and later sentenced to five years in jail for spying, a charge she vehemently denies.
In a video message released this week, Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, pointed out that 28 December would be his wife’s 1,000th day in prison. He said she had spent her 40th birthday, which fell on Boxing Day, in jail.
Hunt added: “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.”