Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe turned 40 in prison in Iran as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he hoped it would be the last birthday she has to spend in custody.
The British-Iranian mother was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport in April 2016 and reached the milestone age on Boxing Day.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, of Hampstead in north London, was sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of spying, a charge she vehemently denies.
Mr Hunt said she was the victim of a “great injustice”.
Happy 40th Birthday Nazanin!Thinking of you & your family this Boxing Day.If the thoughts and prayers of a whole nation can make a difference to you & other innocent people detained in Iran then this will be last birthday you will be suffering such a great injustice #FreeNazanin— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) December 26, 2018
Mr Hunt wrote: “Happy 40th birthday Nazanin! Thinking of you and your family this Boxing Day.
“If the thoughts and prayers of a whole nation can make a difference to you and other innocent people detained in Iran then this will be last birthday you will be suffering such a great injustice.”
The charity worker’s four-year-old daughter Gabriella has been staying with family in Iran since Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was detained.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe has mounted a high-profile campaign for his wife’s release.
Mr Hunt pressed his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Zarif, about her case in September when they met in New York on the fringes of a United Nations General Assembly.
The month before, she had been granted a three-day release but her request for an extension was denied and she was forced to say goodbye to Gabriella and return to jail.
Amnesty International said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s birthday will inevitably be a “day of anguish” rather than a day of celebration, and has called on the UK Government to use “every channel of communication available to it” in its efforts to secure her release.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “Her birthday will be yet another painful moment for Nazanin and her family.
“What should have been a day of celebration for Nazanin will once again be a day of anguish – her third birthday behind bars. Despite everything, we send Nazanin our warmest wishes.
“Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been jailed in the first place.”
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s 40th birthday comes after a British-Iranian academic and anti-war activist who was detained in Iran returned to the UK.
Abbas Edalat, a professor in computer science and maths at Imperial College London, had been held in custody since April, according to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency had reported that Prof Edalat was being held on “security charges”.
The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), which Prof Edalat founded, said he returned to the UK last week.