Michael Gove: We don't know why Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran
Michael Gove has said he does not know what British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing in Iran when she was arrested.
The surprising intervention comes after Tehran moved to increase her prison sentence from five to ten years because Boris Johnson told MPs she had been “simply teaching journalism”.
The gaffe caused uproar since Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe - who has been locked up without charge in Iran over allegations she was spying - insists she was on holiday at the time.
Asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show what she was doing in the country when she was first arrested 18 months ago, Mr Gove said: “I don’t know.”
Put to him that her husband Richard insists she was on holiday, the Environment Secretary added: "In that case I take exactly her husband's assurance in that regard."
Mor Gove also leapt to the defence of Cabinet colleague Mr Johnson, by saying: "There is an effort, somehow to shift attention and direction away from who is really at fault here.
"It is the Iranian regime. They are the people who jailed Nazanin, they are the people on whom our focus should light.
"There is no reason, no excuse and no justification for her detention and she should be released."
He added: "We make a big mistake if we think that the right thing to do is to blame politicians in a democracy who are trying to do the right thing for the plight of a woman who is being imprisoned by a regime that is a serial abuser of human rights...
"I think Boris is doing a great job as Foreign Secretary."
Mr Johnson is expected to speak with Mr Zaghari-Ratcliffe later today. He has urged the Foreign Secretary to take him to Iran to see his wife and child on his next official visit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today demanded Theresa May sack Mr Johnson for “undermining” the UK and putting its citizens at risk.
“Britain’s top diplomat needs to be a leader in cultural sensitivity, but he repeatedly lets our country down…
“We’ve put up with him embarrassing and undermining our country through his incompetence and putting our citizens at risk for long enough.
“It’s time for Boris Johnson to go.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan this morning backed Mr Corbyn, telling Andrew Marr: “I think he’s got to go… If Theresa May was a strong Prime Minister she would have sacked him a long time ago.”