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Remarks By Britain's Johnson Raise Fears For Imprisoned Iranian-British Woman

Source: RFE/RL

Britain warned on November 6 that recent comments by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson should not be used by Iran to bring additional charges against imprisoned Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Iranian-British Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella
(photo taken before Nazanin's arrest last year)

Johnson told the British Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee last week that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had gone to Iran last year to teach people journalism, a statement that the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charity for which she works, said was incorrect and has put her in jeopardy of facing new charges in Iran.

The charity on November 6 called on Johnson to "immediately correct the serious mistake he made."

In reply, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office did not retract the statement, but said: "Last week's remarks by the foreign secretary provide no justifiable basis on which to bring any additional charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe."

"While criticizing the Iranian case against Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the foreign secretary sought to explain that even the most extreme set of unproven Iranian allegations against her were insufficient reason for her detention and treatment."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran's airport last year and is now serving a five-year jail sentence after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran's clerical establishment.

She was brought again into court on November 4, where Johnson's comments three days earlier were cited as proof that she was engaged in "propaganda against the regime."

The Iranian judiciary's High Council for Human Rights said Johnson's comments proved Zaghari-Ratcliffe "had visited the country for anything but a holiday."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's employer and family have said she was on vacation when she went to Iran, taking her baby daughter to meet her grandparents for the first time.

"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," Monique Villa, Thomson Reuters Foundation chief executive, said.

Villa said Johnson's "serious mistake...can only worsen her sentence."

"I see a direct correlation between this statement by Boris Johnson, who rightly condemned the treatment that Nazanin has received in Iran, and the fact that Nazanin was brought once again into court," she said.

The charges against Nazanin have been repeatedly denied by her family and the foundation, which operates independently of Reuters News.

Tulip Siddiq, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party, said Johnson's failure to retract his comments had undermined efforts to secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release.

"The foreign secretary's failure to retract his comments to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee is unforgivable," said Siddiq, who represent's Zaghari-Ratcliffe's district in London. "His comments were both untrue and unhelpful to her case."

The Foreign Office said that Johnson would call his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, "to raise again his serious concerns about the case and ensure his remarks are not misrepresented."

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and

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