This war on Boris won’t help Nazanin
Have any of the people attacking Boris Johnson considered the impact upon Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe? Mr Johnson made a deeply regrettable error when he said that she was teaching journalism in Iran when she was arrested by the dictatorship. But the British critics who are waging such an obsessive campaign against him will only draw more attention to the case, link the fate of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe to Mr Johnson, and make the Iranians more likely to imprison her for longer. Militant Remainers seem determined to turn her into a pawn in their proxy war against Brexit. It is a shameless act that risks destroying the good work that has gone into trying to free her this past year.
It is also ignorant. The suggestion that Mr Johnson subverted the trial of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, arrested on trumped-up charges in 2016, implies that Iran employs due process. It does not. Another excuse for persecuting her further would have been found had that been the regime’s intention. Iran locks up opponents and religious minorities; it is a country in which same-sex relations, blasphemy and apostasy are punishable by execution. Abolghasem Salavati, the judge in the case of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has handed out death sentences for protestors who disputed the outcome of an election and jailed Iranians working with America on an Aids prevention programme.
The xenophobic regime forces any foreign citizen of Iranian descent who wants to visit the country to take on dual citizenship, putting them at their mercy and making them a target for detention. They are not so much put on trial as taken hostage. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are believed to have arrested at least 30 dual nationals in the past two years – a figure hard to confirm because Tehran often doesn’t bother to declare it properly. None of this has anything to do with Mr Johnson’s slip of the tongue. The Guard doesn’t approve of any openness – which is what Barack Obama’s nuclear deal was supposed to accomplish – wishes to protect its own business interests and is willing to use human beings as bargaining chips.
Yes, Mr Johnson made a mistake, but those British critics who are using this tragic affair to attack a Brexit-backing Foreign Secretary risk legitimising Tehran’s tactics, giving the impression that it has an objective judicial process that gathers evidence. But there is no organ of this state that can be considered untainted by its extremist rulers, despite the credulity of a surprising number of British politicians.