Iran Objects To British-Iranian's 'Rare' Diplomatic Protection In UK

Leroy Wright
March 10, 2019

Iran has claimed the UK's move to grant "diplomatic protection" to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe flouts global law.

"This represents formal recognition by the British government that her treatment fails to meet Iran's obligations under worldwide law and elevates it to a formal state-to-state issue", he said in a statement.

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 for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.

He said his decision is "an important diplomatic step which signals to Tehran that its behavior is totally wrong".

However he conceded that it was "unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result" and repeated calls for her release.

The Iranian ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, said in a tweet Friday: "UK Govt's extension of diplomatic protection to Ms Zaghari contravenes int'l law".

According to Reuters, Zaghari-Ratcliffe began a hunger strike earlier this year to protest her treatment.

"We have not even been able to secure her the medical treatment she urgently needs despite assurances to the contrary", Hunt added.

Hunt toughened his stance amid claims that the Iranians had spurned her request for better medical treatment, including regular access to drugs and to her own doctor.

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Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt invoked the rarely-used diplomatic device in response to Iran's treatment of the dual national, who has been held since 2016 on spying charges.

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran's ambassador to Britain, said in a tweet Friday that the British government's move violates worldwide law.

However, Iran refuses to recognise dual nationals so does not recognise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's right to be represented by Britain.

The announcement was welcomed by her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who has been lobbying ministers to take the step for some time.

The decision to elevate Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case could see tensions increase between London and Tehran.

The practical implication of such an elevation depends largely on how the FCO chooses to respond, but it could mean the case is raised on the worldwide stage and in extremis, could lead to sanctions, and requests for reparations on the basis that Britain is the victim of an unlawful act.

Last August, the mother was unexpectedly released for a three-day furlough and was reunited with members of her family including her daughter Gabriella outside the Iranian capital. Her plight has been highlighted by an articulate campaign mounted by her husband Richard.

He said she had refused to cooperate and had since been feeling "very low".

Other initial steps that the United Kingdom could take include lodging an official diplomatic protest with Iran, and requesting that formal negotiations are held to resolve the dispute.

She maintains her innocence, and says she was on holiday in Iran taking her daughter Gabriella to visit her parents.

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