Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was brought to tears of shock and anger by Boris Johnson’s inaccurate comments about the reasons for her visit to Tehran and the Iran authorities’ use of them to justify her imprisonment, her husband said on Sunday.
Johnson’s remarks were seized upon as a confession in the Iranian media and are believed to have left her facing an additional five years in prison.
Despite his wife’s frustration at these events, Ratcliffe added that he had held a positive phone conversation with Johnson in which the foreign secretary said he was “Deeply sorry for Nazanin’s suffering”.
He went on: “Just as Tulip Siddiq is Nazanin’s member of parliament, and has pushed the government, Boris Johnson is Nazanin’s foreign secretary, her government’s voice vis-a-vis Iran. Both have a crucial role in the weeks ahead to stand up for Nazanin, and finally to bring her home.”
Ratcliffe’s decision not to call for Johnson to quit appeared to give the foreign secretary some breathing space on another difficult day on Sunday, after Michael Gove risked further inflaming the situation by saying that he did not know why Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Tehran.
“Boris Johnson’s cavalier approach to international diplomacy is compounded this morning by Michael Gove claiming he has no idea what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran. It has always been clear: she was on holiday visiting her family.”
“It appears Gove is more interested in protecting Johnson’s job than the liberty of a British citizen in jail in Iran. Theresa May must ensure Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe does not pay the price for her ministers’ bungling.”
One Conservative backbencher spoke for several contacted by the Guardian on Sunday who said they were angered to see Gove’s defence of Johnson, which came shortly after reports that they had collaborated on a letter to Theresa May setting out their demands for how the government should prepare for Brexit.
The two men famously fell out when Gove withdrew his support of Johnson’s leadership campaign last year and ran himself instead. “It is all about protecting his new best mate – it is as appalling as it is pathetic,” the MP said.
Sadiq Khan told Marr that Johnson should resign or be sacked following his “Long list of gaffes” as foreign secretary.
The London mayor raised questions about Johnson’s suitability for the role after renewing calls for an apology and clarification over the minister’s remarks.
Khan, who succeeded Johnson as London mayor, told Marr: “I think it’s important that Boris Johnson clarifies the huge error he made I’m hoping he clarifies his position, apologises and helps Richard and the family get Nazanin back home in London where she belongs.”