Boris: I blun­dered on Iran case mum

Daily Mail - - News - By John Stevens Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

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.

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