Creating new perspectives since 2009

Britain 'optimistic' about case of academic jailed in UAE

November 25, 2018 at 1:38 pm

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 13 2018 [TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images]

Britain’s 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.

Read: UK universities boycott UAE over student ‘spying’ conviction

“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.”