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London Grants Jailed UK-Iranian Aid Worker Diplomatic Protection

London Grants Jailed UK-Iranian Aid Worker Diplomatic Protection

Friday, 8 March, 2019 - 06:00
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter. AFP file photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
The UK will hand diplomatic protection to British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to underline the government's belief that Iran has behaved unjustly in its treatment of her, Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday.

Hunt said while the move, a little-used way for governments to seek protection on behalf of their nationals, was unlikely to be a "magic wand," it may help the aid worker's case.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit.

She was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News.

"I have today decided that the UK will take a step that is extremely unusual and exercise diplomatic protection," Hunt said in a statement, adding that the move signaled to Tehran that "its behavior is totally wrong".

"It is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result. But it demonstrates to the whole world that Nazanin is innocent and the UK will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly," he said.

Iran's ambassador to London, Hamid Baeidinejad, said on Twitter that Britain's move "contravenes international law".

"As (the) UK Govt is acutely aware, Iran does not recognize dual nationality. Irrespective of UK residency, Ms. Zaghari thus remains Iranian," Baeidinejad added.

Diplomatic protection is a mechanism under international law through which a state may seek reparation for injury to one of its nationals on the basis that the second state has committed an internationally wrongful act against that person.

Earlier this year, Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike in protest at her treatment in jail.

She has suffered from health issues, including undergoing tests for breast cancer and a series of panic attacks, while her emotional state has worsened during her confinement.

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