Boris Johnson’s shock resignation as Foreign Secretary could have a severe impact on jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who fears she will be “left waiting” in an Iranian prison while a new minister familiarises himself with her case.
The Free Nazanin Campaign has revealed that Johnson’s decision to step down in protest against the Prime Minister’s position on Brexit has left them disorientated and fearful of what may happen next.
The former Foreign Secretary was due to decide whether to offer Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in the next few days. But his resignation has scuppered their hopes for an imminent decision on the application.
The mum is serving a five-year sentence over allegations - which she denies - of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government, having been arrested in the country while on holiday with her daughter in April 2016.
The Free Nazanin Campaign, spearheaded by her husband Richard Ratcliffe, have been in talks with Johnson since last autumn over the British government providing Zaghari-Ratcliffe with diplomatic protection.
The urgency of their bid was heightened after Johnson - incorrectly - declared that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been “teaching people journalism” in Iran.
These remarks were seized on by the Iranian regime as proof that she was “spreading propaganda” against the state.
Relatives and campaigners working on behalf of Zaghari-Ratcliffe said they have submitted “a number of legal opinions and letters over the past 10 months” and had been asking for the Foreign secretary to make a final decision since April.
“A period of time will likely be required by the new foreign secretary to be fully briefed across his whole portfolio, and then the file will need to be re-submitted after some time with our request again that Nazanin be protected,” the campaign said.
“This new delay is an unfortunate consequence of the resignation.”
Johnson’s resignation has upset Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who spoke to her family on a call from Evin Prison on Tuesday morning.
She said: “I can’t believe it – what is going on in that country? I am so worried – worried that the new foreign secretary will need to spend months first reading the file, and then wanting to build relations, and then make new visits. And I am left waiting.”
The Free Nazanin Campaign said: “After 829 days it is easy for her to see things as setbacks, to worry that it is a distracted government, and we have again been put back in the queue. Her husband reassured her that will not happen.”
They thanked Johnson for his efforts with the case during his time as foreign secretary and congratulated his successor, Jeremy Hunt, on his appointment.
The campaign said they plan to meet with the new Foreign Secretary in London this week “to take stock”.
Earlier this year, Richard Ratcliffe stressed the need for urgency in his wife’s case when he warned that her treatment in prison “amounts to torture”.
He said: “These ongoing games remain a kind of psychological torture of continual ups and downs, and pressures impacting on Nazanin.”