PM fails to apologise face-to-face to Nazanin for blunder in her case

·3-min read
PM fails to apologise face-to-face to Nazanin for blunder in her case
PM fails to apologise face-to-face to Nazanin for blunder in her case

BORIS Johnson failed to apologise to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe despite her telling him of the “massive impact” his blunder had on her six-year detention in Iran.

The Prime Minister appeared “shocked” today after the British-Iranian dual national told him she lived for years in the “shadow of his words” as they had their first meeting since her release.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was freed in March along with fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori after the UK agreed to settle a historic £400 million debt dating from the 1970s.

The charity worker and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, their daughter, Gabriella, and their MP Tulip Siddiq went to the discussions in Downing Street.

Mr Johnson had been accused of prolonging Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's ordeal when, as foreign secretary in 2017, he wrongly claimed she had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016.

Speaking to reporters outside No10, Mr Ratcliffe said his wife challenged the PM on why it had taken so long to secure her release.

She also told him the “massive impact” his comments had on her, saying the Iranian authorities brought them up in interrogations shortly before her release.

Asked if Mr Johnson apologised, Mr Ratcliffe said: “Not specifically.”

Ms Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said Mr Johnson “looked quite shocked” as her constituent challenged him.

She said: “I was really proud of Nazanin. She was sitting next to the Prime Minister, and she told him very clearly and categorically that his words had had a big impact on her and that she had lived in the shadow of his words for the best part of four-and-a-half years.

“I have to say the Prime Minister looked quite shocked, I think, when she said that, but I was really proud she did say that because she wanted to make it clear to him that she’s happy now, she’s grateful, she appreciates the fact that she is home now, but there was a time when the words had a big impact.”

Mr Johnson said Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s treatment at the hands of the Tehran regime had been “odious” and discussed classified details about how he had helped with her release.

He later tweeted to say he commended her "for her incredible bravery during her ordeal”.

In 2017, Mr Johnson admitted to MPs that his comments about Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe to a Commons committee "should have been clearer" and apologised to her if he had "inadvertently caused any further anguish". Mr Radcliffe today acknowledged this previous apology and said it had not been an “abrasive meeting”.

The family also pushed for the Prime Minister to give evidence to a Commons inquiry into the Government’s handling of the case.

"He said he would look at it,” Mr Ratcliffe, who underwent hunger strikes during the years spent campaigning for his wife’s release, said after the hour-long meeting.

The PM was also urged to help free the other Iranian dual nationals still being held in detention.

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