Government to press Iran again for release of detained Britons

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Government officials have vowed to “press firmly” for the release of unfairly detained British nationals in Iran when they meet with the country’s deputy foreign minister this week.

The meeting on Thursday will come as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband endures his 19th day on hunger strike outside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in London.

Richard Ratcliffe began his demonstration last month after his wife lost her latest appeal in Iran, saying his family is “caught in a dispute between two states”.

Claudia Winkleman and Victoria Coren Mitchell met with Richard Ratcliffe during his hunger strike (Aaron Chown/PA)
Claudia Winkleman and Victoria Coren Mitchell met with Richard Ratcliffe during his hunger strike (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national, has been in custody in Iran since 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

She was taking her daughter Gabriella to see her family when she was arrested and sentenced to five years in jail, spending four years in Evin Prison and one under house arrest.

According to her family, she was told by Iranian authorities that she was being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.

Iranian deputy foreign minister Bagheri Kani is due to meet officials from the FCDO.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said: “We will urge Iran to take the opportunity to swiftly conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) deal on the table.

“We will also be using this opportunity to again press firmly for the immediate release of our unfairly detained British nationals.”

It is understood Mr Ratcliffe will meet with Foreign Office minister James Cleverly on Thursday afternoon following the meeting.

This is Mr Ratcliffe’s second hunger strike in two years.

Previously, he camped in front of the Iranian Embassy for 15 days, a move he said had resulted in getting his daughter home.

During his latest demonstration he has been visited by supporters including Strictly Come Dancing co-host Claudia Winkleman, writer and presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

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