- REUTERS/Mary Turner
- Boris Johnson apologises for the “distress” he has caused Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
- The foreign secretary admitted to making “a mistake” and clarified that the British national was in Iran on holiday.
- Zaghari-Ratcliffe is currently in prison in Iran.
LONDON – Boris Johnson has apologised for the “distress” he has caused Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family after he suggested that she was in Iran to train journalists rather than on holiday.
The foreign secretary told MPs: “Of course I apologise for the distress, for the suffering, that has been caused by the impression that I gave that I believed that she was there in a professional capacity. She was there on holiday.”
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: “His pride matters not one ounce [compared] to her freedom.”
Watch Boris Johnson’s apology below
— Sky News (@SkyNews) November 13, 2017
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran last March, and since then has been in prison while the Foreign Office, which Johnson leads, tries to secure her release.
Conservative MP Julian Lewis, chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee said: “This has not been his finest hour.”
Johnson refused requests to apologise for being wrong, saying only that he could have been “clearer” about the subject, adding that his comments were “open to being misinterpreted.” He will meet Richard Ratcliffe, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband on Wednesday.
Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper said: “The foreign secretary has rightly and welcomingly said that the priority of everyone should be the return of a wrongly and inhumanely imprisoned mother who has been separated from her child.
“But he also knows that words matter, and every time he says things like ‘my words were simply left open to misinterpretation’ he provides a lack of clarity that sounds like he’s wriggling in a way that other people can exploit. Could he for the sake of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, unequivocally, for the record, ‘I got it wrong?'”
Johnson replied: “I hope that the House will understand that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was there on holiday. She was not there in any professional capacity. So far as people who got a different impression at the FCO, that was my mistake. I should have been clearer.
“It was my mistake. I apologise for the distress and anguish that has been caused to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family.”
Earlier on Monday Ratcliffe wrote that his wife “faces a longer sentence because of your [Johnson’s] words,” and that he should take responsibility for “prolonging” her suffering.
Your mistake in saying that Nazanin was in Iran training journalists – as opposed to the reality: that she was there on holiday with our daughter Gabriella, visiting her family – has raised the stakes for my wife,” Ratcliffe wrote to Johnson in the Evening Standard.