UK PM Johnson meets British-Iranian aid worker for first time since her release


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LONDON - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday met Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian aid worker who was released after six years of detention in Iran and who has criticised the government for not getting her home sooner.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to London in March when she was released along with another dual national after Britain repaid a historic debt.

It was the first time she had met Johnson, who was foreign secretary between 2016-2018.

She has criticised the length of time it took to secure her release, asking in March, shortly after she returned, "how many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five?"

Asked ahead of Friday's meeting if Johnson would apologise to Zaghari-Ratcliffe, his spokesman said: "It's important to remember that it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her unfair detention."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by Revolutionary Guards at Tehran airport on April 3, 2016, while trying to return to Britain with her then 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, from an Iranian New Year's trip to see her parents. She was convicted of "plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment".

Her family and her employer, the Thomson Foundation, denied the charge. The Thomson Foundation is a charity that operates independently of Thomson and its news subsidiary .

Tulip Siddiq, an opposition lawmaker representing Zaghari-Ratcliffe's constituency who campaigned for her release, said that she "deserves to hear directly from the prime minister about why it took so long to get her home".

Siddiq had said she was also going to raise the case of Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American environmentalist who also holds British citizenship who remains detained in Iran.

"Never again must the government allow British citizens to be taken hostage with so little done to secure their release and so few reprisals for those responsible," Siddiq said in a statement.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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