Boris Johnson finally apologises for wrongly claiming British mother jailed in Iran was training journalists

Posted On: 
13th November 2017

Boris Johnson has finally apologised to the family of Nazanin over his gaffe that could add another five years to a British mother's time in an Iranian prison.

Boris Johnson addressed the Commons on the Zaghari-Ratcliffe case for the second time today
Credit: 
Parliament TV

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was hauled before a court in Tehran and told her five-year sentence could be doubled after the Foreign Secretary said she had been "teaching people journalism" there.

The comment directly contradicted Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's insistence that she was on holiday when she was detained 18 months ago.

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Last week Mr Johnson refused to apologise for the blunder saying only he was sorry if his words had been “taken out of context or misconstrued”.

But today he told MPs: “I do apologise and of course I retract any suggestion that she was there in a professional capacity."

He was condemned just minutes earlier by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry when he appeared to fudge the apology.

Mr Johnson had said: “I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and to her family if I had inadvertently caused them any further anguish.”

But Ms Thornberry said: “Will the Foreign Secretary today accept the impact that his words have had accept the distress that has been caused to Nazanin and apologise properly for that?

“Not apologise for upsetting people but apologise for getting it wrong.”

She added: “If it is a matter of pride that the Foreign Secretary is refusing to admit simply that he has made a mistake well then I feel bound to say to him his pride matters not one ounce compared to Nazanin’s freedom.”

Later during the Urgent Question debate Mr Johnson added: “That was my mistake. I should have been clearer and I apologise for the distress and anguish that has been caused to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family.”

Tory former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan earlier today said Mr Johnson should consider quitting over the gaffe.

The Loughborough MP told the BBC Daily Politics that it would be "completely inexcusable" if Mr Johnson had made the blunder because he had failed to read his brief properly.

"There are times when being a Secretary of State involves reading large boxes of papers for hours every weekend and hours every night but that is the job," she explained.

"That is the job you are asked to do on behalf of your country. If he doesn’t want to do it, then somebody else should be given the job.”