MPs were granted an urgent question on Monday night to press Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case in the Commons. Her husband Richard watched the proceedings in person.
Labour’s Tulip Siddiq, who is Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP, said the British mother and King shared a prison cell.
“Can the minister explain to me how the Australian government has been able to achieve such rapid progress for another British national whereas Nazanin still remains in jail three-and-a-half years later,” Siddiq said.
Tory MP Sir John Hayes urged Minister for State Kit Malthouse to seek advice from Australia.
“There are lessons to be learned from the recent Australian experience – two Australians have been released,” Hayes said.
“Will he enter into discussions with the Australian government to discover what steps they took to ensure that release?”
Junior Foreign Office Minister Andrew Murrison said Iran viewed Zahari-Ratcliffe’s case differently to the Australian couple’s because she is a dual British-Iranian citizen.
“Iran does not accept that [Zahari-Ratcliffe] also had British nationality, that lies at the heart of this.
“Jolie King is a British Australian national, that’s the difference – it’s invidious comparing consular cases and I’m certainly not going to be drawn into doing so,” he said.
He said Iran was acting illegally and could only enhance its international reputation by relenting.
“Our access to Nazanin is non-existent, we are forbidden by Iran to access Nazanin in the way we would expect to have access to British nationals,” he said.
“I regret that.
“While these harrowing, dreadful cases continue they cannot possibly expect to deal with the wider world in the way that I think they wish to be,” he said.
Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said the outcome was related to how Australia’s foreign minister had handled the case compared to that of Boris Johnson, who as foreign secretary, wrongly told the Foreign Select Committee that the British mother was “teaching people journalism”.
Iran seized on the inaccurate statement to justify her ongoing detention saying she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.
“Her success shows what can be achieved even with Iranian hardliners, when working with tact, diplomacy and dedication to the task, not, let’s be frank, what we got from the current Prime Minister when he was in charge of this brief,” Thornberry told the Commons.
Johnson’s leadership rival and successor in the foreign office, Jeremy Hunt, also intervened in the debate and said his biggest regret was not being able to bring Zaghari-Ratcliffe home.
Stephen Gethins, from the Scottish Nationalist Party, requested that all documents relating to Johnson’s testimony to the committee was released.
“I’m not interested in political point scoring, I am interested in getting Nazanin back home,” said Murrison.
Latika Bourke is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in London.