Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi says the British government’s extension of diplomatic protection to an Iranian citizen is not a constructive and positive measure.
Qassemi’s reaction came after London offered “diplomatic protection” to Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari who is serving her prison term in Iran.
“We have been informed of this move by the UK government and have also received a note through official channels in that regard,” Qassemi told IRNA on Tuesday.
“At the moment, relevant bodies are studying the legal and political dimensions of the note, and we will respond to that in due time,” the spokesman added.
He underlined the move by London, per se, does not create any new legal status, whether domestically or internationally.
“The move simply reflects a political decision by the British government, which even runs counter to Britain’s own statutory positions in international circles,” said Qassemi.
“Regardless of whether or not she has another nationality, and irrespective of Iranian laws and regulations regarding the issue of nationality and dual citizenship, Ms Zaghari has always appeared as an Iranian citizen at least as long as her activities, visits and dealings in Iran are concerned,” Qassemi said.
“Meanwhile, in order to give a legal and political response to this note, we are waiting for relevant entities to finalize their reviews,” the spokesman said.
“What is certain is that firstly, the UK government has had no goodwill in this move; and secondly, the move is not regarded as constructive and positive at all, and if it does not make the situation more complicated, it will definitely not make it easier, either,” he added
“What I can say at this point is that the case of Ms Zaghari has been dealt with at relevant judicial bodies in a routine way in terms of litigation principles, and in conformity with all rules and regulations,” he noted.
“Both through the legal proceedings and while serving her sentence, Zaghari enjoyed and still enjoys all legal and civil rights, including medical and health services, as an Iranian national,” Qassemi added.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on Friday that London had decided to give Zaghari diplomatic protection “as part of the Government’s continuing efforts to secure her release.”
“Affording diplomatic protection in Nazanin’s case represents formal recognition by the British Government that her treatment fails to meet Iran’s obligations under International law and elevates it to a formal State to State issue,” a statement by the UK Foreign Office said.
“I have today decided that the UK will take a step that is extremely unusual and exercise diplomatic protection,” Hunt said in a video message.
In his message, Hunt repeated his earlier allegation that Iran had denied medical care to Zaghari, a claim that, according to Qassemi, “indicated his lack of knowledge on the case.”
In reaction to Hunt’s statement, Iranian Ambassador to London Hamid Baeidinejad said the UK government’s extension of diplomatic protection to Zaghari contravenes international law.
“Govts may only exercise such protection for own nationals. As UK Govt is acutely aware, Iran does not recognize dual nationality. Irrespective of UK residency, Ms Zaghari thus remains Iranian,” he said in a Friday tweet.
Iran’s intelligence authorities arrested Zaghari at Imam Khomeini International Airport in April 2016 as she was on her way back to London.
She was subsequently put on trial and handed a five-year jail term after being found guilty of spying and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic.
British media had claimed that she worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation and was on vacation in Iran when she was arrested. However, former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement to a parliamentary committee in 2017 that Zaghari had been “simply teaching people journalism.”
Johnson’s remarks amounted to an accidental confession that Zaghari was plotting against the Iranian government, but British authorities described them a gaffe.