Boris Johnson apologises to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe over 'anguish'

16 November, 2017, 02:17 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Top UK politicians want Boris Johnson sacked

The revelations about Nazanin's health come after a week which has seen the Ratcliffe family at the top of the news agenda after Mr Johnson made a gaffe by wrongly stating publicly that she was training journalists in Iran - which could see her sentence doubled. But if the United Kingdom were to assert its diplomatic protection over a British citizen, that would change things significantly.

Labour minister Tulip Siddiq, who is Zaghari-Ratcliffe's MP, tweeted: "Astonishing that two of the leading Brexiteers, Boris and Gove, can't get the facts straight".

Taking such a measure would effectively escalate the case from an individual consular matter to a formal legal dispute between Britain and Iran, BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian citizen, is serving a five-year sentence after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment.

The broad legal principle is that British diplomats would no longer be representing the interests of a citizen but the interests of their state.

Mr Ratcliffe says a call for his wife's release from the United Nations last month had not been endorsed by government.

Responding, Mr Johnson said: "Of course I apologise for the distress and suffering that has been caused by the impression that I gave that the Government believe, and I believe, that she was there in a professional capacity".

He said he was also planning to visit Iran before the end of the year and would discuss the possibility of Mr Ratcliffe accompanying him.

She told the Foreign Secretary his "pride matters not one ounce compared to Nazanin's freedom".

Asked by Labour about the prospect, Mr Johnson told MPs that he would be answering the question "in person" and would meet Mr Ratcliffe this week.

On Monday, Ms Thornberry took issue with Mr Johnson's suggestion his comments were "misinterpreted" as she demanded the Foreign Secretary "unequivocally" state that he "simply got it wrong".

Labour MP Yvette Cooper told Mr Johnson that "words matter", saying Mr Johnson can not keep "shrugging off" comments that are "inaccurate" or "damaging".

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And on the calls for him to go he added: "I don't think it's helpful for Nazanin at this point".

Richard said: "So that this is clear - for the media, government and particularly for authorities in Iran - as Nazanin's husband, I do not believe it is in Nazanin's interests for there to be any resignations".

Mr. Johnson at first equivocated, saying his remarks could have been clearer and that there was no doubt that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been on vacation.

Johnson addressed Parliament again, this time apologizing for the anguish he had caused the family.

He said Mr Johnson is now "personally engaged" in the case following controversy over his remarks.

"We are of the view that the only effective means under global law by which the grave harm suffered by Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe may be repaired lies in the UK's right to exercise diplomatic protection", the legal opinion said.

Environment Minister Michael Gove urged critics to stop focusing on Johnson's role in the case and instead to question the motivation of what he called "the Iranian regime" in jailing Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

"I asked the Foreign Office to remind all of the Cabinet members that that's the Government's position".

The spokesman said Prime Minister Theresa May had been involved in Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case "from the outset" and was treating it as "a priority".

The full details of the allegations against her have never been made fully public.

Nazanin was arrested at Tehran airport on a return journey to London after a family holiday with her daughter Gabriella in April past year.

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