Fo­cus on Iran, not Boris re­marks on jailed mum – Gove

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

MICHAEL Gove has sparked fresh ques­tions about the fate of a Bri­tish woman jailed in Iran af­ter say­ing he did not know why she was in the coun­try.

In a staunch de­fence of Boris John­son – who has been crit­i­cised for mak­ing re­marks that were seized on by Tehran to jus­tify its threats to ex­tend Nazanin Zaghari-Rat­cliffe’s sen­tence – Mr Gove yes­ter­day at­tacked at­tempts to shift the blame from “who is really at fault”. The coun­try’s state TV broad­caster has claimed the For­eign Sec­re­tary’s sug­ges­tion that she was “train­ing jour­nal­ists” in Iran at the time of her ar­rest last year amounted to an “un­in­tended ad­mis­sion” of her guilt.

Mrs Zaghari-Rat­cliffe, 39, was jailed in April 2016 on claims that she was work­ing to over­throw the gov­ern­ment while she was vis­it­ing her par­ents in Iran with her daugh­ter Gabriella.

The Bri­tish-Ira­nian ci­ti­zen was sen­tenced to five years im­pris­on­ment in Evin Prison on charges which have not been made pub­lic and has been held as a po­lit­i­cal prisoner ever since.

Asked what Mrs Zaghar­iRat­cliffe was do­ing in Iran, Mr Gove told BBC One’s The An­drew Marr Show: “I don’t know. One of the things I want to stress is there is no rea­son why Nazanin Zaghari-Rat­cliffe should be in prison in Iran so far as any of us know.”

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant tweeted: “It is scan­dalous that Gove adds fur­ther am­bi­gu­ity to Nazanin po­si­tion by be­ing so poorly briefed. Look, min­is­ters, the Ira­ni­ans are das­tardly so you need to be ruth­lessly self-dis­ci­plined or you put Bri­tons at risk.” The En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary warned it would be a “big mis­take” to fo­cus at­ten­tion on his cab­i­net col­league when Iran is “in the dock”.

He said: “There is an ef­fort, some­how, to shift at­ten­tion and di­rec­tion away from who is really at fault here and it is the Ira­nian regime.”

There is “no rea­son” for Mrs Zaghari-Rat­cliffe’s de­ten­tion and she should be re­leased, he said. “There is noth­ing the Ira­nian regime would like more than for the at­ten­tion to be shifted off them and on to us”, Mr Gove said. “I think we make a big mis­take if we think the right thing to do is to blame politi­cians in a democ­racy who are try­ing to do the right thing for the plight of a woman who has been im­pris­oned by a regime that is a se­rial abuser of hu­man rights. Who is in the dock here? Iran. Let’s not play their game. We play their game if we point the finger at democrats who are try­ing to do the right thing when it is ex­trem­ists who are re­spon­si­ble for the abuse of hu­man rights.”

Mr Gove said Mr John­son was “do­ing a great job” as For­eign Sec­re­tary and that it was “plain wrong” to find fault with demo­cratic politi­cians when the Ira­nian regime has “blood on its hands”.

Told that Richard Rat­cliffe said his wife was in Iran on hol­i­day, Mr Gove added: “In that case, I take ex­actly her hus­band’s as­sur­ance in that re­gard.”

Asked if she had been train­ing jour­nal­ists, he said: “Her hus­band said she was there on hol­i­day and her hus­band is the per­son who should know.”

Labour’s Sadiq Khan said Mr John­son should re­sign or be sacked fol­low­ing his “long list of gaffes”.

Mrs Zaghari-Rat­cliffe, whose sis­terin-law Re­becca Jones lives in Cardiff, and her em­ployer, Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion, in­sisted the train­ing claim is in­cor­rect with Mr John­son later ac­knowl­edg­ing his com­ments “could have been clearer” and he had no doubt “she was on hol­i­day” in Iran.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.