LONDON (Reuters) – The husband of an Iranian-British aid worker jailed in Iran said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson should not resign over his comments on the case, despite opposition calls for him to do so.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years after being convicted by an Iranina court of plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic’s clerical establishment. She denies the charges.
Johnson said on Nov. 1 that she had been teaching people journalism before her arrest in April 2016, contradicting her and her employer, who said she had been on holiday visiting her family.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation which is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News, said Johnson’s comments were wrong and opposition British lawmakers said they might provoke Tehran to hand the dual national a longer jail term.
Johnson later said his remarks could have been clearer and there was no doubt she had been on holiday although opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he should resign.
”Undoubtedly what has been said by the foreign secretary has been used in the Iranian media,“ her husband Richard Ratcliffe told BBC radio. ”I don’t think it’s helpful for Nazanin at this point (for Johnson to resign).
“I don’t think it’s helpful also in terms of how it looks in Iran for me to be looking like I‘m playing politics.”
He said he had spoken to Johnson by phone and they had discussed going to Iran together which he said he hoped would help her case.
Johnson has said his remarks could have been clearer and there was no doubt she had been on holiday.. But opposition members of parliament have called on Johnson to resign for his remarks which they say have endangered Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Johnson’s comments were cited on Iranian state television as evidence of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s guilt.
British ministers have rallied round Johnson but one of his allies, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, was accused of muddying the waters in a television interview on Sunday when he said he did not know what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran.
“I wrote to the foreign office and said ‘listen can you please remind cabinet ministers that the government’s position is that the government has no doubt that Nazanin was there on holiday’,” Ratcliffe said of Gove’s comments.
Ratcliffe said there were “wider politics” around the issue and thought Gove had made his remarks as part of a defence of Johnson.
The situation had affected his wife’s health, he said, saying she had gone to hospital for tests after finding lumps on her breasts, which the specialist thought were benign and stress-related.
“She’s going back in again next week for a further assessment just to see how they improve,” he said.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Angus MacSwan