Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian aid worker serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly plotting against Iran's government, was on top of Johnson's agenda. Johnson is the third British foreign secretary to visit Iran since 2003.

Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson meets Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran on December 10, 2017.
Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson meets Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran on December 10, 2017. (Reuters)

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

The British Foreign Office says Johnson brought up 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.

New charges

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband says she faces trial on new charges Sunday 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 finalised.

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

Ghazanfarabadi, according to the report, said 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 apologised.

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 Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family in Iran for about 45 minutes while on his trip, her husband Richard Ratcliffe said Sunday. Ratcliffe said a hearing in his wife's trial today was postponed because of Johnson's trip, a development he viewed with optimism.

"This weekend we had our first ripple of freedom, with the postponement of Nazanin's new court case," he said in a statement. "Of course who knows what lies ahead, the past 20 months have had plenty of false turns — but my hope is that the ripple in the days ahead might become a full change of tide."

It remains unclear when Zaghari-Ratcliffe's trial will resume.

Iran deal

The two-day visit took place against a complex backdrop of historical, regional and bilateral tensions.

Johnson met Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation earlier on Sunday.

"It has been a worthwhile visit and we leave with a sense that both sides want to keep up the momentum to resolve the difficult issues in the bilateral relationship and preserve the nuclear deal," the Foreign Office spokeswoman added.

International sanctions against Iran have only recently been lifted as part of the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal to curb Tehran's disputed uranium enrichment programme.

That deal is under threat after US President Donald Trump decided to decertify Iran's compliance with its terms. Johnson told Zarif he believed the deal should be fully implemented.

Johnson later traveled to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. There, he met Abu Dhabi's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan and discussed regional issues, though authorities there did not elaborate. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies