Boris Johnson has urged his Iranian counterpart to release the jailed aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a visit to Tehran.
The Foreign Secretary “spoke frankly” to Mohammad Javad Zarif about the plight of the Iranian-British mother of one, who has been held in the country since April 2016.
The meeting came after Mr Johnson flew into Iran for what was only the third visit by a British foreign minister to Iran in the last 14 years.
A Foreign Office spokesman said on Saturday night: “They discussed the full range of bilateral issues and they both spoke frankly about the obstacles in the relationship, including the Foreign Secretary’s concerns about the consular cases of British-Iranian dual nationals.”
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment. She denies the charges.
She is not the only dual national being held in Iran, but has become the most high-profile case since her arrest in April 2016.
Mr Johnson caused a diplomatic furore last month when he said that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching people journalism when she was held.
In fact she had not been working, but had simply been on a family holiday and critics said the remarks could have prompted Iran to extend her sentence.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation independent of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News, confirmed that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on holiday and had not been teaching journalism in Iran.
Mr Johnson has since apologised for any distress his comments may have caused and confirmed that she was in Iran on holiday.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard, who last spoke to his wife by telephone early last week, described her as “really on edge” about both the trial and the hope that Mr Johnson’s visit might produce a breakthrough in the case.
He said: “She asks me every time: ‘will I be home by Christmas?’ She can’t hear any hesitation in my voice when I answer her. I promised her I would do everything I could to bring her home by Christmas. We haven’t quite given up hope on that.”
Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe calls her husband once a week from Tehran’s Evin prison, where she shares a section of cells and a communal kitchen with about 20 other female prisoners.
Prison rules mean she is allowed to see her daughter Gabriella, who is now three and a half years old and lives in Tehran with her grandparents, twice a week for about 40 minutes at a time.
Mr Ratcliffe said it would be naive to expect a sudden breakthrough in the case and that he would be surprised if the outcome of today’s hearing was not a guilty verdict. Judge Salavati, who presided over Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe’s first trial, has a reputation for passing harsh sentences.
In a statement last month, the Iranian embassy in London said: “While being in prison is not a pleasant experience, Mrs. Zaghari has full access to medical care and services, to social worker and has the right to regularly – twice a week – contact her husband, meet her family including her parents who live in Iran and her daughter.”
“Mrs Zaghari’s daughter has access to her British passport and lives comfortably with her grandparents based on her mother’s free will.”
The Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement about Mr Johnson’s visit: “The two sides discussed various matters including economic, banking and trade relations.
“The UK foreign secretary said the JCPOA (nuclear deal) is very valuable to the UK and emphasised his country’s commitment to its full implementation.”
Mr Johnson, who is scheduled to meet President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, had earlier promised to leave “no stone unturned” in Britain’s efforts to free Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
International sanctions have only recently been lifted as part of a multilateral nuclear deal to curb Iran’s disputed uranium enrichment programme. That deal is under threat after U.S. President Donald Trump decided to decertify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.
Britain has voiced its continued support for the nuclear deal but is one of a number of Western powers voicing concerns about Tehran’s “destabilising” influence in the region.