UK State Secretary Borris Johnson's slip of tongue could lengthen Ratcliff's jail sentence in Iran
Nov 7, London: The UK Secretary of State for Foreign AffairsBoris Johnson says he’ll phone his counterpart in Iran amid fears comments he made could lead to a British woman in an Iranian jail having her sentence doubled. Johnson incorrectly claimed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in the Islamic republic to “train journalists” when she was actually on holiday.
“When I look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it,” Johnson told a select committee last week. 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.
The charity worker, who was employed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation as a project manager, is already serving a five-year prison sentence. She now faces a further five years in jail on new charges of “propaganda against the regime.” Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been eligible for parole under the early-release scheme from November 23.
Tory trade secretary Liam Fox, however, has urged people not to overreact to Johnson’s “slip of the tongue.” Speaking on BBC’s Radio 4, he said: “We all make slips of the tongue, we’ve got to very careful that we are not overreacting to this in a way that is going to give the Iranians [an excuse to extend the sentence].”
Richard Ratcliffe, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, has demanded Johnson provide answers over the blunder and “retract” the remarks in Parliament. He maintains his wife was visiting family and is innocent. He said he still hoped his wife and young daughter would be back home in the UK for Christmas. Their daughter, who was just 18 months old when Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested, is still in Iran with family.
The government said Johnson would call Iran to avoid misrepresentation. Johnson’s remarks “provide no justifiable basis on which to bring any additional charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said.
In a statement over the weekend, the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran said: “[Johnson’s] statement shows that Nazanin had visited the country for anything but a holiday. For months it was claimed that Nazanin is a British-Iranian charity worker who went to see her family when she was arrested.
This statement by Johnson could increase her time in jail as the claims
The Oslo Times International News Network/Agencies