LONDON (Reuters) – Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday he was optimistic that progress could be made in the case of Matthew Hedges, a British academic jailed for life in the United Arab Emirates on spying charges on Wednesday.
“I am more optimistic as we sit here now that we can find a way through this,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “The UAE is a very longstanding friend of the UK and I’ve had very good conversations with their foreign minister; I am going to speak to him again this afternoon.”
Hunt was also asked if there were any grounds for optimism in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 in Tehran as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, 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 organisation that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
“I think that’s more challenging,” Hunt said on Sunday. “I was in Tehran on Monday, and I asked to meet Nazanin. I wasn’t allowed to but I did meet her daughter.”
Hunt said he had urged Iran to provide medical assistance to Zaghari-Ratcliffe and to another unnamed citizen in a similar situation.
He said it was “totally and utterly unacceptable” for Iran to “start locking up innocent people as a tool of diplomatic leverage.”
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Mark Potter and Elaine Hardcastle)