Johnson to call Iran after reports comments could harm Zaghari-Ratcliffe case

Boris Johnson is to call Iran's foreign minister, following reports that comments made by the Foreign Secretary were being used in Tehran as a justification to extend the jail sentence imposed on a British woman.

Mr Johnson is facing calls to retract his claim to a parliamentary committee last week that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran at the time of her arrest in 2016 - something her employer and her family insist is incorrect.

But in a statement released by the Foreign Office, a spokesman did not offer any correction, stating instead that Mr Johnson's comments may have been "misrepresented" and that they provide "no justifiable basis" for additional charges.

(Kirsty O'Connor/PA)
(Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence in an Iranian jail, was summoned to an unscheduled court hearing last weekend, at which Mr Johnson's remarks were cited as proof that she had been engaged in "propaganda against the regime".

Reports suggest that the new charge could add a further five years to her prison term, imposed over unspecified allegations of involvement in a supposed coup attempt against the Tehran regime, which she denies.

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 baby daughter Gabriella to her grandparents.

But Mr Johnson told a parliamentary committee on November 1: "When I look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism as I understand it.

"(Neither) Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her family has been informed about what crime she has actually committed. And that I find extraordinary, incredible."

Iran's Judiciary have also used Boris Johnson's comments about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on their website:

-- Aisha S Gani (@aishagani) November 6, 2017

Following Saturday's hearing, the Iranian judiciary's High Council for Human Rights said: "His 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 ... Mr Johnson's statement has shed new light on the realities about Nazanin."

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's employer, Thomson Reuters Foundation, released a statement urging Mr Johnson to correct his "serious mistake".

Both the Foundation and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family see a "direct correlation" between the Foreign Secretary's comments and the action by hardline judge Abolghassem Salavati, said Ms Villa.

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