This war on Boris won’t help Nazanin

The Sunday Telegraph - - Letters To The Editor -

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.

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