Netizen 24 GBR: Boris Johnson says sorry for 'mistake' over jailed Briton in Iran

Boris Johnson says sorry for 'mistake' over jailed Briton in Iran Play Video 0:35 Boris Johnson: 'I apologise ...

Boris Johnson says sorry for 'mistake' over jailed Briton in Iran

Play Video 0:35
Boris Johnson: 'I apologise to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family' â€" video
Boris Johnson Boris Johnson says sorry for 'mistake' over jailed Briton in Iran

Foreign secretary apologises for ‘distress and anguish’ his remarks caused to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family

Boris Johnson has apologised for his “mistake” in comments about a British-Iranian mother detained in Iran, which had led for calls for his resignation for putting her at further risk.

The foreign secretary said he was in no doubt that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in the country on holiday visiting relatives w ith her young daughter, not “training journalists” as he had told the foreign affairs select committee.

Her family said the error had been seized on by Iranian authorities as proof that she was a threat to the regime. Downing Street said earlier on Monday they would consider her husband’s proposal to give his wife diplomatic protection.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Johnson said: “I hope the House will understand with crystal clarity that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was there on holiday. She was not there in any professional capacity.

“Insofar that people got a different impression, it was my mistake, I should have been clearer ... I apologise for the distress and anguish caused to Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family. Our priority now is to everything we can to get her out of Iran on humanitarian grounds.”

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Who is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a 38-year-old Iranian-British dual national who has been jailed in Iran since April 2016. She has been accused of attempting to orchestrate a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic Republic. She and her three-year-old daughter, Gabriella, were about to return to the UK from Iran after a family visit when she was arrested. Since then, she has spent most of her time in Evin prison in Tehran, separated from her daughter.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for BBC Media Action between February 2009 and October 2010 before moving to Thomson Reuters Foundation, the news agency’s charitable arm, as a project manager. Her family has always said that she was in Iran on holiday.

Photograph: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe/PA Was this helpful? Thank you for your feedback.

Johnson said he had already written to the foreign affairs select committee to correct his remarks and would meet Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe on Wednesday, after speaking to him by telephone on Monday morning.

He said he would discuss the idea of giving Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in a meeting with her husband this week. “He has requested to come to Tehran. I don’t know whether that will be possible but we will see what we can do,” he said.

“We do not normally call for the release of consular cases because very often that exacerbates their position,” Johnson went on. “But I have called for her release on humanitarian grounds.”

As Labour MPs called for him to apologise for the error, he said: “Yes, of course, I apologise for the distress, the suffering that has been caused by the impression that I gave that the government believed, that I believed, she was there in a professional capacity. She was there on holiday and that is the view.”

Johnson continued: “I do apologise, I do apologise, and of course I retract any suggestion that she was there in a professional capacity.”

The foreign secretary was speaking after he returned from Brussels to answer an urgent question from the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, on the case in the House of Commons. Thornberry said there had been a week of “obfuscation and bluster” from Johnson.

She urged him to state “simply and unequivocally” that he got it wrong when claiming Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists when she was visiting Iran, despite her family’s insistence she had been on holiday with her young daughter.

Thornberry told the Commons: “We know, from the evidence of Richard Ratcliffe, that when Nazanin was told of the remarks and saw how the Iranian authorities would exploit them she became hugely distressed and upset.”

She said Johnson should “accept the impact that his words have had, accept the distress that has been caused to Nazanin and apologise properly for that â€" not apologise for upsetting people, apologise for getting it wrong.”

Thornberry also criticised the environment secretary, Michael Gove, for his comments over the weekend, when he replied “I don’t know” when asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr show why the British mother had been in Iran.

No 10 confirmed on Monday morning that the government could consider granting Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection to help secure her release from jail in Iran, after Johnson discussed the idea with the detained woman’s husband.

“I think that the foreign secretary has obviously spoken with her husband and that is one of the options being looked at,” Theresa May’s spokesman told reporters.

Giving diplomatic protection is not the same as diplomatic immunity, under which diplomatic and consular staff cannot be prosecuted. It is a state-to-state mechanism under whi ch a matter is moved beyond the usual consular level and on to a position where the state making the move is formally seeking redress over an issue.

In an open letter to Johnson published in the Evening Standard newspaper, Ratcliffe said he and the human rights charity Redress had written to the Foreign Office two months ago explaining why his wife should receive diplomatic protection, but had not received a reply.

“The Foreign Office always emphasises that Nazanin is a dual national,” Ratcliffe wrote. “But her life is in Britain â€" she has a British home, a British job, a British husband, a British child. Given the way dual nationality works, Britain can choose to say, ‘We will protect her as though she is British.’

“The Foreign Office refuses to acknowledge that she is being held because she is British and that she faces a longer sentence because of your words â€" my understanding of the strange reluctance to apologise.”

Ratcliffe ha s also reiterated his view that Johnson’s resignation would not help his wife’s case. He described the phone conversation as “positive” and said he would discuss the idea of a joint trip to Iran to try to visit his wife.

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Netizen 24 United Kingdom: Netizen 24 GBR: Boris Johnson says sorry for 'mistake' over jailed Briton in Iran
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