“We have been informed of the measure taken by the British government and have also received a note from official channels in this regard,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, said Tuesday.
Qassemi said that “we are currently taking into consideration the political and legal aspects of the note and will respond to it in due time.”
The Iranian official said that there will be no new legal implications associated with the move either domestically or internationally, adding that it “merely reflects a political decision by the British government," which runs contrary even to the country's own legal international positions.
Qassemi said irrespective of her UK residency, Zaghari has always identified herself as an Iranian citizen in all her activities inside the country.
He said the UK government’s move to give Zaghari diplomatic protection “lacks goodwill” and would fail to contribute to the settlement of the issue.
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.”
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.”
Diplomatic protection is a rarely-used tool under international law, which gives a country the right to challenge another state over the treatment of one of its nationals or companies.
It is very different from diplomatic immunity, which applies to accredited diplomats and provides them with safe passage. It is also different from consular assistance, where a state offers assistance to its nationals in another country.