Gaffe by Boris Johnson could see jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence doubled

  • Gaffe by Boris Johnson could see jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence doubled

Gaffe by Boris Johnson could see jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence doubled

Iran's foreign minister told Boris Johnson that the United Kingdom foreign secretary's comments about a British charity worker imprisoned in Iran did not lead to her being brought before a judge in Tehran at the weekend, the United Kingdom government said Tuesday.

"The Foreign Secretary called the Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif this morning to discuss the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe".

However, Johnson, speaking to a British parliamentary committee on November 1, said she had been "simply teaching people journalism as I understand it".

And her family claimed Johnson's mistake could put her at risk of an extra five years in a hell-hole jail.

Johnson's remarks "provide no justifiable basis on which to bring any additional charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe", a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

He added: "The Iranian judiciary used Boris Johnson's comments against my wife as a tool to fabricate new charges".

In the Commons Mr Johnson said the UK Government "has no doubt that she was on holiday" in Iran and that was the sole objective of her visit and he insisted his remarks could provide no reason for lengthening her sentence.

The British secretary said, "there's no connection whatsoever between my remarks last week and the legal proceedings in Tehran".

"On 1 November, he said that that Nazanin "was training journalists in Iran".

It was clear, as it always had been, that Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe had been in Iran on holiday when arrested", the statement said.

Along with academics and worldwide workers from other western countries who were detained around the same time, she was accused of espionage by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, then separated from her daughter, placed in solitary confinement and sentenced to five years in prison.

Johnson's comments "shed new light" on her case, the article said.

But who is Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and what are the charges she is facing?

'My point was that I disagreed with the Iranian view that training journalists was a crime - not that I wanted to lend any credence to Iranian allegations that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been engaged in such activity.

The Iranian judiciary's High Council for Human Rights said Johnson's comments proved Zaghari-Ratcliffe "had visited the country for anything but a holiday". Her daughter was taken from her and lives now with relatives in Iran. The foreign secretary said this was absolutely not true.

Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian spent 543 days in prison in Iran after he was arrested and convicted of espionage.

Johnson's remarks were described as a "slip of the tongue" by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who added that he did not believe it was a "serious gaffe".

The head of the London-based media foundation that employed Zaghari-Ratcliffe welcomed Johnson's actions and urged him to meet with her in jail.

'The UK Government has no doubt that she was on holiday in Iran when she was arrested past year and that was the sole objective of her visit.

"We can only hope no lasting damage was done as a result of his blunder", said Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary during the session in parliament.

While Johnson's blunder was not a "deliberate error", Thornberry writes, "it nevertheless reveals a fundamental lack of interest or concern for the details of Nazanin's case and the consequences of your words".