Boris Johnson is to meet the husband of British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe for the first time as the Prime Minister is to discuss renewed efforts to free her and other British citizens jailed by Iran.
Richard Ratcliffe will have a face-to-face meeting with Mr Johnson in Downing Street on Thursday as he seeks to increase international diplomatic pressure on Tehran to free his wife, who has been detained on controversial spying charges since 2016.
Mr Johnson has previously been criticised for his handling of the case as Foreign Secretary, but Mr Ratcliffe has said he wants the Prime Minister to show that he is "personally taking interest" and signal that his wife’s case “is a priority”.
Downing Street announced the meeting after Mr Ratcliffe and families of other jailed dual nationals met yesterday with the UK’s Ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire, who was himself recently detained in Tehran amid heightened tensions following the killing of a top Iranian general and the apparent shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, from London, is serving a five-year sentence after being arrested during a holiday with her daughter and accused of spying.
She is among five British or dual nationals known to have been jailed in Iran on similar charges, which they deny.
Her husband previously accused Mr Johnson, when he was Foreign Secretary, of increasing her sentence by claiming that she was training journalists in Iran at the time of her arrest.
Other dual nationals in Iran’s notorious Evin prison include Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic who wrote that she felt “abandoned and forgotten” and also claimed that Tehran had attempted to recruit her as a spy in letters smuggled out of prison that were revealed yesterday.
Jeremy Hunt, the former Foreign Secretary, accused Tehran of a “vile practice of hostage diplomacy”, adding: “The international community must now take a stand.”
Families of those behind bars welcomed Mr Ratcliffe’s latest meeting with Mr Johnson, which comes after fears that renewed hostility between Iran and the West in the wake of the killing of Qassem Soleimani might jeopardise their chances of being released.
Sherry Izadi, the wife of British-Iranian Anoosheh Ashoori, 65, who is serving a 12-year sentence for “spying for Israel”, which he denies, said last night: “I hope from the very deepest part of my heart that the Prime Minister can be persuaded to take practical steps to get the hostages home.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We remain extremely concerned about the welfare of British dual nationals detained in Iran.
"The Prime Minister raised these concerns with President Rouhani on 9 January, and the Foreign Secretary did so with Foreign Minister Zarif on 6 January.”