Boris: I blundered on Iran case mum
BORIS Johnson apologised last night for causing ‘anguish and distress’ to a British mother imprisoned in Iran as he admitted making mistakes in his handling of her case.
The Foreign Secretary has faced calls to resign over claims that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could have her jail time increased after he wrongly said she had gone to the country to train journalists.
But yesterday Labour withdrew its demands for him to quit after her husband warned this would not help her case.
Richard Ratcliffe also revealed Iran had been looking at extending her sentence before Mr Johnson’s gaffe, telling ITV News: ‘In fairness, there were hints of new charges before he made the comments.’
The Foreign Secretary is to meet Mr Ratcliffe tomorrow to discuss the possibility of his wife being offered ‘diplomatic protection’ in an attempt to secure her freedom.
Summoned to the Commons yesterday, Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘Of course I apologise for the distress and suffering caused by the impression I gave that the Government believe, and I believe, that she was there in a professional capacity. She was there on holiday. I do apologise, and of course I retract any suggestion that she was there in a professional capacity.’
Urging Iran once more to release Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe on humanitarian grounds, Mr Johnson said: ‘Iran’s regime and no one else has chosen to separate this mother from her infant daughter for reasons that even they find it difficult to explain or describe.’
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, was arrested in Tehran in April last year and sentenced to five years imprisonment for working against the Iranian regime, a charge she denies.
Her husband has campaigned for her release, insisting she was on holiday with their 18-month-old daughter Gabriella so the child could meet her grandparents in Iran.
Despite her family pleading for help from the Foreign Office for more than 18 months, Mr Johnson told the foreign affairs committee earlier this month she had been training journalists in Iran. The Iranian state broadcaster said this amounted to an ‘unintended admission’ of her guilt.