Australian foreign minister speaks with Iran over imprisoned academic

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Australia’s foreign minister has spoken with her Iranian counterpart about a British-Australian academic imprisoned in Tehran who recently begged for diplomatic intervention to secure her release.

Marise Payne spoke to Mohammad Javad Zarif about Cambridge-educated Kylie Moore-Gilbert’s case on Thursday while attending a conference in India, a spokesman for Ms Payne’s office told the PA news agency.

“This is not a detention that we support, we don’t accept the charges,” Ms Payne told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

India Iran
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke with his Australian counterpart in India (Manish Swarup/AP)

She also wrote: “I beg of you, Prime Minister (Scott) Morrison, to take immediate action, as my physical and mental health continues to deteriorate with every additional day that I remain imprisoned in these conditions.”

The academic is held in the same prison as Britons Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori.

Meanwhile, the UK’s ambassador to Iran has returned to London for talks after being labelled “persona non grata” by Iran’s judiciary, with an effigy of the envoy burned in Tehran by hardline protesters.

Pro-government protesters set fire to a life-size cut-out of Britain’s ambassador Rob Macaire (Vahid Salemi/AP)

The ambassador was arrested and briefly detained on Saturday after attending a vigil for the 176 people, including four Britons, killed when Iran accidentally downed a Ukrainian jet.

Whitehall sources insisted his visit was routine and he would use it as an opportunity to brief officials and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

The Foreign Office said it was “very much business as usual” and the envoy would “be returning to Iran in the coming days”.

The latest developments come after the UK, France and Germany began action against Iran over its failure to comply with the terms of its nuclear deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested that Donald Trump could produce an alternative nuclear deal after the current accord was undermined by the US withdrawal from it.

The US president responded on Twitter, saying he agreed that a “Trump deal” was the way forward – although so far Washington has yet to produce any alternative to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement.

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