Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case: Boris Johnson apologises over remarks

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Media captionNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband tells Today he doesn’t think Boris Johnson should resign

Boris Johnson has apologised for his remarks about a British-Iranian mother who is being held in prison in Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe says she was on holiday when she was arrested in 2016 – a claim the foreign secretary appeared to contradict this month.

Apologising in the Commons, Mr Johnson said he would meet her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, on Wednesday and will visit Iran “before the end of the year”.

Mr Ratcliffe has called for his wife to be granted diplomatic protection.

The plight of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe – who has been held in prison for more than 18 months – has been widely discussed since Mr Johnson gave evidence before a Commons committee on 1 November.

During the hearing, the foreign secretary said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalism in Iran before her arrest – something her family and employer say is incorrect.

Responding to an urgent question in Parliament, Mr Johnson was asked to apologise.

“Of course I apologise for the distress, for the suffering that has been caused by the impression I gave that I believed she was there in a professional capacity. She was there on holiday,” he said.

“I do apologise. Of course I retract any suggestion she was there in a professional capacity.”

Asked by Labour about the prospect of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe being granted diplomatic protection, Mr Johnson told MPs that he would be answering the question “in person” and would meet Mr Ratcliffe this week.

He said he was planning to visit Iran before the end of the year and would discuss the possibility of Mr Ratcliffe accompanying him.

Under international law, diplomatic protection is a way for a state to take diplomatic action on behalf of a national.

Taking such a measure would effectively escalate the case from an individual consular matter to a formal legal dispute between Britain and Iran, BBC diplomatic correspondent James Landale said.

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