Gaffe by Boris Johnson could see jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence doubled

Cheryl Sanders
November 6, 2017

Johnson told the British parliament's foreign affairs committee on November 1 that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching people journalism, a statement that the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation for which she works, said was incorrect.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said he had no doubt the fresh charges were triggered by the Foreign Secretary's remarks, three days earlier.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now serving a five-year prison sentence after being arrested at Tehran airport in April 2016 as she attempted to return home from a visit to see her family.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard claimed she was plotting to overthrow the regime, an allegation the 38-year-old rejects.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's employers at the Thomson Reuters Foundation have issued an angry statement demanding that Mr Johnson immediately apologise for the mistake.

Along with academics and worldwide workers from other western countries who were detained around the same time, she was accused of espionage by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, then separated from her daughter, placed in solitary confinement and sentenced to five years in prison.

"There is a direct link between Boris Johnson's comments on Wednesday and Judge Salavati, the harshest judge that you can find, hearing her case on Saturday, where she is now facing a double sentence", Mr Ratcliffe said.

Monique Villa, chief executive of the charitable arm of the Thomson Reuters news agency, said: "She is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the Thomson Reuters Foundation where she is project manager in my Media Development team".

She was brought before a court last month and warned that she could face a further 16 years in jail.

Tehran's prosecutor general said in October that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was being held because she ran "a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran".

"This accusation from Judge Salavati can only worsen her sentence".

"On 1 November he said that Nazanin 'was training journalists" in Iran.

She added: 'She is obviously a bargaining chip between the United Kingdom government and Iran and this injustice must stop as soon as possible.

She was arrested in April 2016 when she and her young daughter, Gabriella, were about to return to the United Kingdom from Iran.

"Whatever is at stake should be paid attention to by the United Kingdom government".

Although his speech was welcomed, Johnson was criticised for incorrectly stating that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was working, a claim that some fear could increase chances of her detention to be prolonged. "Mr Johnson's statement has shed a new light on the realities about Nazanin, which has been strongly denied previously by both her family and human-rights activists", the Iranian judiciary concluded.

She has been able to have visits from her daughter Gabriella, who has stayed in Iran to live with her grandparents so she can be closer to her mother.

"He must immediately retract his comments to the foreign affairs select committee regarding my constituent", she said.

In a statement, Mr Johnson did not retract his comments but said they provided "no justifiable basis" to bring extra charges.

Mr Johnson would be "calling the Iranian Foreign Minister to raise again his serious concerns about the case and ensure his remarks are not misrepresented".

Other reports by iNewsToday