Boris Johnson says he feels 'deep sense of anguish' over jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Boris Johnson said he feels a “deep sense of anguish” over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - but rejected the claim he has any responsibility for her current plight.
The British national is currently in prison in Iran on espionage charges, something she and the UK authorities strongly deny.
The Tory leadership hopeful had been accused of making her case worse when he was Foreign Secretary, after he wrongly said she has been “teaching” in the Middle Eastern country.
Asked if he feels bad about his influence on her case, Mr Johnson said: “Yes I do. 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.”
But speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, he pushed back over whether he was responsible for the situation.
He said: “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.”
When asked about Richard Ratcliffe's claim that his comments “had very traumatic consequences” for his wife and were used to justify a second case which saw her jail sentence increased, Mr Johnson replied: “Of course, I do feel a deep sense of anguish about it as I have said and I have apologised several times in the House of Commons and elsewhere.
"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, which is that the people incarcerating Nazanin and others are Khatim Sulaimani and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
“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.”
Speaking on the same programme after Mr Johnson’s interview the chairman of his Tory leadership rival Jeremy Hunt’s campaign, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, said his words “has not helped the case”.
Elsewhere the favourite in the race to replace Theresa May struggled to remember what the National Living Wage was, after saying he wanted to help people on lower incomes.
After saying it was “around £10 or so”, before being told it was in fact £8.21, Mr Johnson replied: “Sorry I was talking about the London living wage, forgive me.”