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Johnson calls Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband as Gove stumbles

13 November 2017

News that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has found new lumps in both her breasts and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown underlines the horror of the predicament this mother-of-one has found herself in since she was arrested on holiday in Tehran in April 2016.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is being held on allegations relating to espionage, has denied the charges, always maintaining that she was in Tehran to visit family and was not working in the country at the time of her arrest.

He claimed there was an "effort to shift the blame away from those who are really at fault here, and that is the Iranian regime".

He later sought to clarify his remarks, telling the Commons the "UK Government has no doubt she was on holiday".

Mr Johnson has been heavily criticised for making remarks that were seized on by the Iranian authorities to justify its threats to extend her sentence.

"Theresa May must ensure Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe does not pay the price for her ministers' bungling".

Mr Ratcliffe said he did not think the Foreign Secretary should quit because he had a "crucial role" in fighting for his wife and that "more instability" would not be in her interests.

Their conversation lasted around 20 minutes, and they agreed to meet in the coming days, according to a statement from the "Free Nazanin Campaign".

He will also "look seriously" at the prospect of him accompanying the Foreign Secretary to Iran, and "consider personally" Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's eligibility for diplomatic protection.

"Boris Johnson's cavalier approach to global diplomacy is compounded this morning by Michael Gove claiming he has no idea what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran".

His wife has been complaining for months of sharp pains in her breasts, which has finally led to an ultrasound test on Saturday and medication being prescribed ahead of a follow-up consultation next weekend, he said.

The family believe the move, based on a legal opinion they submitted to the foreign office two months ago, could aid Britain's efforts to secure her release under worldwide law.

He was asked by the BBC what the Briton was doing in Iran, and replied: "I don't know".

"Her husband said she was there on holiday, and her husband is the person who should know".

"In that case I take exactly her husband's assurance in that regard", he said.

Labour's Chris Bryant said the comments were proof of an "incompetent" Government.

Asked what Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran Gove told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I don't know". "I think we make a big mistake if we think the right thing to do is to blame politicians in a democracy who are trying to do the right thing for the plight of a woman who has been imprisoned by a regime that is a serial abuser of human rights. It's a Government of incompetence". Jeremy Corbyn called on Mr Johnson to go, saying he had been "putting our citizens at risk for long enough", and London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he should resign or be sacked following his "long list of gaffes" as Foreign Secretary.

Johnson calls Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband as Gove stumbles