Boris Johnson has falsely claimed a British-Iranian mother being held in Iran jail was in the country training journalists.
The Foreign Secretary’s blunder could lead to dire consequences for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker who was actually in Iran on holiday.
Iranian authorities had thrown Zaghari-Ratcliffe in jail on charges of espionage 18 months ago and earlier this month was told she faces fresh charges of attempting to overthrow the Islamic Republic.
The 38-year-old a project manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation – the news agency’s charitable arm – could face 16 years in prison, but was simply on holiday visiting her parents with her 22-month-old daughter Gabriella when she was arrested 18 months ago.
Now, Johnson may have put her campaign for release in jeopardy after making an error at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee meeting, telling them that she “was training journalists in Iran”.
Oliver Denton Lieberman, the Office Manager to Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s local MP, told HuffPost that Siddiq had been in touch with Ratcliffe’s family over the weekend and said they were “distraught by the situation”.
Denton said the family had been campaigning for nearly two years to get the Government to “acknowledge that it was a bad thing that she was in prison” and had felt like they were “inching towards saying something she was wrongly imprisoned before the genius that is Boris Johnson added a few extra flourishes to it.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employer has made an urgent appeal to Johnson to correct his mistake.
TRF’s statement reads: “I once again urge Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to immediately correct the mistake he made at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in Parliament.
“On 1 November, he said that that Nazanin ‘was training journalists in Iran’. I have immediately clarified that this is not right as she is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the Thomson Reuters Foundation where she is a project manager in my media development team.
“She was in Iran on holiday to show her daughter Gabriella to her grandparents when she was arrested at Tehran Airport on 3 April 2016. Like Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, 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 on Saturday November 4 and accused of ‘spreading propaganda against the regime’.”
HuffPost UK has contact the Foreign Office for comment.
Along with academics and international 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.