Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe fears longer jail term in Iran after Boris Johnson’s blunder
Charity worker told her sentence may be lengthened after former Mayor of London said she was 'teaching people journalism'
09 November, 2017 — By Tom Foot
A CHARITY worker from West Hampstead, jailed in Iran on vague spy charges, fears she will be locked up for longer after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made a blundering update in which he said she had been training journalists in Tehran.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, has always maintained she was simply visiting her family when she was held by authorities and split up from her daughter Gabriella last year. Her case has since gained mass media attention. A national campaign has called on the UK government to do more to secure her release amid growing concerns for her physical and mental state. She was sentenced to five years after being accused of working towards a “soft coup” against the Iranian government.
Her appeals have failed, ramping up the importance of diplomatic negotiations. But Mr Johnson, appointed to the key role of Foreign Secretary by Theresa May after she became prime minister last year, caused dismay when he told a select committee last week: “You look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing. She was simply teaching people journalism as I understand it, at the very limit.”
Her employer, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has confirmed she has never worked in this capacity. It has been claimed that Mr Johnson’s remarks could lead judges in Iran to double Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence because it differs from her account that she was on a family holiday. She was taken back, by surprise, to court at the weekend. Mr Johnson denies that this development relates to his comments.
He has now told the House of Commons that he was “sorry if any of words of mine have been so taken out of context and so misconstrued as to cause any kind of anxiety for the family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe”. But he was defiant that his words – which he said were a summary of what Iranian authorities had accused her of doing, rather than her actual reason for being in Iran – would not create a fresh hurdle towards her release.
He told MPs: “The most important thing is that I do not believe – and I have this from the Iranians themselves – that those words had any impact on the judicial process. “We are going to work flat out to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.”
Islington South MP Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, has urged the Foreign Secretary to show “a bit of personal responsibility and admit that a job like this, where your words hold gravity and your actions have consequences, is simply not the job for him?”