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Fri, 4 December 2020

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Downing Street slaps down Michael Gove over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe gaffe

Downing Street slaps down Michael Gove over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe gaffe
2 min read

Downing Street has slapped down Michael Gove over his claim that he did not know why Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran at the time of her arrest.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said "the Government's position on this clear" that she was in the country on holiday.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been locked up in an Iranian jail for the past 18 months, and was warned last week that her five year sentence could be doubled after Boris Johnson told MPs she had been arrested for "training journalists".

The Foreign Secretary has since admitted he "could have been clearer" in his remarks, which have led to calls for him to be sacked by Theresa May.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Mr Gove added to the confusion when he was questioned about the case.

Asked what the mother-of-one was doing in Iran, the Environment Secretary said: "I don’t know."

Put to him that her husband Richard insists she was on holiday, he said: "In that case I take exactly her husband's assurance in that regard."

In a briefing for journalists this morning, Mrs May's spokesman said: "The Government's position on this is clear - she was there on holiday. It wasn't for any other purpose. The position of the Government is clear and has been clear throughout."

He added: "Our focus needs to be on the case itself and on doing everything we can to try to secure her release."

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard, spoke with Mr Johnson on the phone yesterday.

On Radio Four's Today programme this morning, he said he had written to the Foreign Office urging them to "remind Cabinet ministers that the Government’s position is that the Government has no doubt that Nazanin was there on holiday"

He also said he believed Mr Gove's comments were aimed at supporting his fellow Cabiner colleague and Brexiteer, Mr Johnson.

"I think there is a wider politics that people are positioning themselves around and that will be partly to do with those who are pushing for the Foreign Secretary to resign and there are those that are pushing to defend the Foreign Secretary," he said.

Mr Ratcliffe also suggested that the Foreign Secretary could join him when he visits his wife in prison.

He said: "I think I’m clear that the British Foreign Secretary standing up for her, going alongside her husband would send a very clear message diplomatically."

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "We will look at his comments very closely and will do whatever is the best course of action to try to secure her release."


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