Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband insists Johnson’s comments impacted on her

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has insisted that comments made by Boris Johnson when he was foreign secretary “enabled a propaganda campaign” against her by Iran.

Richard Ratcliffe directly contradicted claims by Mr Johnson in the Tory leadership TV debate that his remarks as foreign secretary had no bearing on the fate of the mother-of-one, who is in prison in Iran on spying charges.


Mr Johnson was forced to apologise in 2017 after wrongly stating to a House of Commons committee that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been in Iran to teach journalists.

Referring to the remarks, Mr Ratcliffe told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Of course they had consequences.

“The main difference they had was, obviously, they enabled a propaganda campaign that was run against Nazanin.”

He added: “It was used to justify a second court case.

“And has been used to discredit her ever since.”

Read on...

The issue came up in the Tory leadership TV debate on Tuesday when Mr Johnson was asked if he worries his words might do “more harm than good” in relation to his comments about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson claimed in the TV debate that his words did not have consequences in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case (Jeff Overs/BBC)

Mr Johnson said: “Well actually I think it’s very, very important that in this context we should pay tribute to the work of the Foreign Office in doing what they can to get out very difficult consular cases, but in seeking to point the finger either at me or at anybody in the UK for the incarceration of Nazanin or anybody else… I have the deepest sympathy clearly for Nazanin and her family. But in pointing the finger at our side…”


Interrupted by chair Emily Maitlis, who said “words have consequences” – referring to a question asked by a member of the public – Mr Johnson said: “Well actually in that case it didn’t, I think, make any difference.

“But if you point the finger at the UK, all you are doing is exculpating those who are truly responsible which is the Iranian revolutionary guard and that is reality and people should realise what this regime is up to, and that is where the responsibility lies.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on April 3 2016 at Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran as she prepared to board a plane back to the UK after visiting relatives and is serving a five-year sentence in the notorious Evin Prison.

She and her husband have a five-year-old daughter, Gabriella, who has not been allowed to leave Iran following her mother’s arrest and is living with her grandparents.

Her detention is now also against a backdrop of heightened tensions over an attack against two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is also in the race to become the next prime minister, granted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection in March, but Tehran refuses to acknowledge her dual UK-Iranian nationality.

Asked if Mr Johnson had made the situation worse as foreign secretary, Mr Hunt told the BBC: “I think that is for Richard Ratcliffe to comment on.

“I think it would be incredibly unseemly when we have an innocent woman in prison, separated from her five-year-old daughter, for there to be any kind of point scoring by candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe began a third hunger strike on Saturday, while her husband has set up camp outside the Iranian embassy in London, vowing not to eat for the duration of her protest.

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us