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Johnson rejects any responsibility for plight of Briton jailed in Iran | Politics News



Boris Johnson has told Sky News he feels a “deep sense of anguish” for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother jailed in Tehran on spying charges, but he has rejected any responsibility for her continuing plight.

The Conservative leadership contender faced criticism when, as foreign secretary, he incorrectly stated that she was “teaching people journalism” in Iran despite relatives insisting she was visiting family.

Mr Johnson’s comments were seized on by the Tehran regime and used against the charity worker, who remains in prison.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is reunited with her daughter after being granted a temporary release from prison
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella

Former Tory party chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who heads Jeremy Hunt’s campaign to be the next prime minister, said the language Mr Johnson had previously used about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe “has not helped the case”.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Mr Johnson insisted the Iranian authorities were solely to blame for her suffering and warned the UK must not “unwittingly give aid and succour to the people who are really responsible”.

His comments came as the 40-year-old ended a 15-day hunger strike she started in protest at her “unfair imprisonment”.

The mother of one was arrested at Tehran airport while travelling with her young daughter in April 2016 and sentenced to five years in jail after being accused of espionage – a charge she vehemently denies.

Boris Johnson was speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday
Boris Johnson was speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Pressed on her case, Mr Johnson said: “I feel sorry for her, for her daughter, for her husband Richard and I’ve said this many, many times. I feel a deep sense of anguish for what she has been going through.”

However, he added: “When it comes to responsibility for what she is suffering I think that is incredibly important that we in the UK do not unwittingly give aid and succour to the people who are really responsible.

“Which is not the Foreign Office, not the former foreign secretary, and no one in London is responsible for incarcerating Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“The people who are responsible are the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and anything you do to exculpate them is, I think, a great shame.”

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe has said Mr Johnson’s comments had ‘traumatic consequences’ for his wife

Her husband Richard has previously said Mr Johnson’s comments had “very traumatic consequences for her” as they were used to discredit his wife and justify a further trial.

Confronted with this, Mr Johnson said: “Of course, I do feel a deep sense of anguish about it as I have said and I have apologised… but it is very very important that in this conversation we don’t allow whatever I may have said or done to cloud the issue.”

He argued that only Iran was to blame for imprisoning Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and added: “They are doing it illegally, they are doing it inhumanely and they should release her and others, and I think it’s very very important that we focus on that message.”

Conservative party leadership candidate Boris Johnson has a drink in the Munch and Wiggles cafe in Oxshott, Surrey
Boris Johnson claims some of his words have been ‘totally taken out of context’

During a wide-ranging interview, Ridge tackled the would-be prime minister on a host of other issues. Here is what he had to say:

On borrowing

“If it’s borrowing to finance great infrastructure projects and there is an opportunity to borrow at low rates and do things for the long term benefit of the country then we should do them.

“I’m prepared to borrow to finance certain great objectives but overall we will keep fiscal responsibility and keep going with the general trajectory of ensuring that this country pays its way and lives within its means.”

On tax cuts

“I think we should be looking at lifting people on low incomes out of tax, lifting the thresholds for National Insurance.”

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt at the Conservatives digital hustings. Pics: Facebook

Tory candidates divided on Brexit

On suspending parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit

“I don’t want to prorogue parliament nor do I expect to. I don’t think that’s going to be necessary and I think that it’s far more important that MPs focus on where we are.”

On the refusal of EU leaders to renegotiate the divorce agreement

“Well I think it’s possibly the case that they would say that at this particular stage in the negotiations. You would expect them to say that kind of thing.”

Boris Johnson told Talk Radio he makes models of buses and paints passengers to switch off from his day job

‘I like to make models of buses to relax’

On the threat of tariffs in the event of no deal

“I think it would be very very strange if the EU was to go for a solution in which their vehicles coming to the UK, in huge numbers by the way, face tariffs.

“That’s not the way to go. It doesn’t make any sense. The way forward is to have a standstill in the current arrangements.”

On his “f*** business” comment

“My words have been totally taken out of context.

“I was being told that there was absolutely no way that the UK could leave the single market and the customs union and that we would have to stay run by the EU, and I don’t think that is the case.”

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