Britain's top diplomat raises detainee's case in Iran talks

By Amir Vahdat

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In this photo released by official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, greets British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the start of their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Johnson arrived in Tehran on Saturday, where he was expected to discuss the fate of detained dual nationals, including a woman serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow Iran's government. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson raised the case of a detained dual national on yesterday when he met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a two-day trip to Tehran.

The British Foreign Office says Johnson raised the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly plotting against Iran's government, during a "worthwhile visit" to the country.

The Foreign Office said both Johnson and Rouhani "spoke forthrightly" during their nearly hour-long meeting and "agreed on the need to make progress in all areas," without elaborating.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband says she faces trial on new charges yesterday that carry the possibility of an additional 16-years imprisonment, but Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi said last month that her verdict has been finalized.

The semi-official Fars news agency reported yesterday that the head of Tehran's revolutionary court, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, denied on yesterday reports that there were any developments in Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case.

Ghazanfarabadi, according to the report, said that the case will be brought to court if a new crime is discovered, "because these people are very insolent."

Efforts to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker who has been held since April 2016, are believed to top Johnson's agenda. Johnson recently complicated those efforts by saying incorrectly that she was training journalists when arrested. He has since apologized.

London is considering repaying Tehran some 400 million pounds from a pre-1979 arms deal. Both sides say the money isn't related to Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Johnson met with Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear program, earlier yesterday.

Johnson arrived in Tehran on Saturday, leading a high-ranking delegation and meeting with Iranian officials. He met with with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif upon his arrival.

A smiling Zarif reminded a female member of Johnson's delegation, whose headscarf was unintentionally misplaced, to observe the country's Hijab dress code.

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