The family of a British woman jailed in Iran have demanded further action from Boris Johnson, after the country’s state TV broadcast a report claiming that the Foreign Secretary’s comments in Parliament amounted to an “unintended admission” of her guilt.
The Channel 2 report said that Mr Johnson’s suggestion that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “training journalists” when arrested in Iran last year had “dealt a blow” to the efforts of campaigners and UK authorities to support her position that she was in fact on holiday.
Mr Johnson has admitted that his comments “could have been clearer”, and told MPs on Tuesday that the UK Government “has no doubt that she was on holiday” in Iran.
He told Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif in a phone call that there was “no justifiable basis” for further legal action and said he had received assurances that recent developments in her case were not linked to his remarks.
But Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard said that Wednesday’s broadcast showed that Mr Johnson’s actions so far “do not look sufficient”.
In a statement, the Free Nazanin Campaign said: “Iranian state TV evening news ran a long feature on Nazanin, using the Foreign Secretary’s words last week to discredit Nazanin and negate the efforts to release her. Assurances given this week do not look sufficient.
“The UK Government should not be in denial about the gravity of the situation or the abuse Nazanin is suffering at the hands of the Iranian authorities. The Government’s first duty – both governments’ first duty – is to protect its citizens.”
Mr Ratcliffe said he wanted to take up Mr Johnson’s offer of a meeting to discuss the case, and wanted to join the Foreign Secretary on his planned trip to Iran, due to take place before the end of the year.
He also urged the Foreign Secretary to ensure that a Farsi translation of Mr Johnson’s “clarification” should be issued to the Iranian media and posted on the website of Britain’s embassy in Tehran.
He called on Mr Johnson to ask Mr Zarif to acknowledge in public that his wife was in Iran on holiday with her daughter Gabriella at the time of her arrest.
He said Nazanin’s parents, who live in Iran, watched the evening news “in growing horror” and were “in a state of shock and disbelief” as a result of the broadcast.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe herself is likely to have seen the broadcast with fellow inmates in prison and “her reaction to seeing herself publicly framed by the Iranian authorities is as yet unknown”, he said.
Following Mr Johnson’s comments last week, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing at which she was threatened with the doubling of her five-year jail sentence.
Wednesday’s TV broadcast said that the British media and authorities had spent the last year trying to emphasise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s innocence “until last week, the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson utters a sentence that proves costly for the government of this country”.
It added: “Just this one sentence from the Foreign Secretary was enough to deal a blow to all the attempts of the British media and authorities in the past few months…
“It appears that the statement of Boris Johnson was an antidote to all the statements of various media and UK authorities who had been claiming in the past year-and-a-half that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had come to Iran for humanitarian reasons.”
Asked about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case during a visit to the US, Mr Johnson told Sky News: “We have some difficult consular cases in Iran and we are working on all of them.”