British Foreign Secretary Faces Calls to Resign Over Iran Detainee Comments

Richard Ratcliffe husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a vigil for his wife | Chris J Ratcliffe  Getty Images

Johnson told the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had gone to Iran previous year to teach people journalism, a statement that the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charity for which she works, said was incorrect and has put her in jeopardy of facing new charges in Iran.

The Iranian judiciary's High Council for Human Rights said Mr Johnson's comments to the Foreign Affairs Committee had "shed new light on the realities about Nazanin", contradicting her defence that she was in the country for a holiday at the time of her 2016 arrest.

Downing Street also voiced support for Mr Johnson, with Theresa May's official spokesman saying the Prime Minister thinks her Foreign Secretary is "doing a good job representing Britain's interests abroad".

The charity worker, who is employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is already serving a five-year prison sentence.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother from London, was arrested by Iran's Revolutionary Guard in 2016 on accusations of plotting to overthrow the regime.

The Foreign Office said that Johnson telephoned his Iran foreign minister, Javad Zarif, on Tuesday morning to discuss the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested while visiting the country with her young daughter previous year.

Labour shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has written to Mr Johnson to insist he must resign should his actions result in Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe spending longer in prison.

A "serious mistake" by the Foreign Secretary may add years to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence, say campaigners.

Mr Johnson "reiterated his anxiety about the continued suffering of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family and hoped a resolution would be reached soon", a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

But Boris Johnson said his comments were taken out of context, and he was merely describing the allegations against her rather than saying she had actually been training journalists.

Denton said the family had been campaigning for almost two years to get the Government to "acknowledge that it was a bad thing that she was in prison" and had felt like they were "inching towards saying something she was wrongly imprisoned before the genius that is Boris Johnson added a few extra flourishes to it".

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He added the "worst thing" Mr Johnson could do now was "suddenly go quiet and to create this problem without making any clarifications".

He said he still hoped his wife and young daughter would be back home in the United Kingdom for Christmas.

Former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC Mr Johnson needed "to concentrate more" and "get the detail right".

She added the latest charge "can only worsen" Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's situation.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe insisted in her original trial that she was not working in Iran at the time of her arrest, but was visiting the country to show her infant daughter Gabriella to her grandparents.

A petition has now been launched on online petition site demanding Mr Johnson step down as foreign secretary.

The 38-year-old has been detained in the Iranian capital since April last year, when she was arrested at Tehran airport as she attempted to return home from a visit to see her family.

Both Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her employer have always maintained she was simply visiting family while on vacation. "And that I find extraordinary, incredible".

Following his comments, the 37-year-old woman was taken to an unscheduled court hearing in Iran, where Johnson's remarks were cited as proof of her guilt. She was summoned to court again on Saturday, when the presiding judge accused her of "spreading propaganda against the regime".

Mr Ratcliffe said: 'It was a mistake to suggest that she was doing something that she wasn't and the Iranians are doing this to deliberately smear her.' He urged Mr Johnson to clarify his statement.

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