A British mother held in an Iranian prison for almost two years wept after being told how a ‘gaffe’ by Boris Johnson could have led to her being hauled before a court to face new charges.
Richard Ratcliffe said his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was inconsolable and asked: ‘Why do I have to suffer? Why does my baby have to suffer?’.
Her emotional outburst came after the Iranian authorities hauled her back before a court to face new charges that could see her five-year prison sentence extended.
It followed a comment by Foreign Secretary Johnson, who said the charity worker was in Iran to teach journalists and not on holiday as she maintained during her trial.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is in prison in Iran after she was arrested on holiday. It is feared she could face a longer sentence after Boris Johnson mistakenly said she was ‘training journalists’
There are calls for Boris Johnson to resign after he blundered into the international issue
Speaking in the House of Commons today, Mr Johnson told MPs his previous remarks ‘could have been clearer’.
Mr Johnson was lashed from all sides as Labour’s Emily Thornberry demanded he resigned for putting a national’s life in danger.
And his fellow Conservative Anna Soubry demanded he ensure ‘his own ambitions are put secondary to everybody else in this country’.
The politician eventually said he was ‘sorry’ if his remarks caused the family anxiety but angrily defended his own position and blamed the Iranian regime for what is happening to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Her husband Richard told MailOnline he was pleased Mr Johnson had gone to Parliament to correct the record, but added: ‘You don’t want a Foreign Secretary to put people’s lives in jeopardy.’
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for the Thomson Reuters but is employed by the charitable arm of the media company.
The 38-year-old has been in prison for almost 600 days after being convicted of plotting to overthrow the regime last April.
She has always insisted that she was visiting relatives in Tehran with her daughter.
Boris’s comments to a Foreign Affairs Select Committee are feared to be behind the Iranian regime’s decision to bring her back to court.
When she was taken back to court on Saturday the Iranian judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights declared that the Foreign Secretary had revealed the truth.
It said: ‘His [Johnson’s] statement shows that Nazanin had visited the country for anything but a holiday.
‘For months it was claimed that Nazanin is a British-Iranian charity worker who went to see her family when she was arrested… Mr Johnson’s statement has shed new light on the realities about Nazanin.’
At her trial, the charity worker insisted she had been on holiday and was not involved in any political activity. The exact charges have never been made public by the Iranian court.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, said they hoped Boris would visit Iran to get her freed
She was visiting relatives in Tehran with her daughter, Gabriella, when she was detained
Johnson had told the Foreign Affairs committee: ‘When I look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it.
‘[Neither] Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her family has been informed about what crime she has actually committed. And that I find extraordinary, incredible.’
He is now facing calls to resign over the comment, but insisted his remarks have been taken out of context.
Mr Ratcliffe said his wife does not blame Johnson for her latest court ordeal and they were both pleased that the Foreign Secretary had spoken to his Iranian counterpart by phone to explain fully his remarks.
Johnson said his remarks ‘could form no justifiable basis for further action’ against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Boris has denied claims his comments led to increased action against the British mother
Her husband told the Evening Standard: ‘She was obviously distraught about being taken back to court and bewildered about what caused that.
‘She isn’t sitting there blaming Boris, she knows it’s the Iranians doing this, and what she is focused on now is him visiting her as soon as possible.’
He said he had told her Johnson’s remarks could have led to the court appearance but the couple are buoyed by Johnson’s offer to travel to Iran to visit her in prison.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her accountant husband have always maintained she was in Iran so her parents could meet her three-year-old daughter Gabriella.
The toddler is now being looked after by her grandparents and has spent half her life without either of her parents.
Johnson has come under fire from two former Foreign Secretaries for his latest gaffe with Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry suggesting he should quit if his remarks have damaged Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe bid for freedom.
Her husband says she was heartbroken when she learned about the comments
Sir Malcom Rifkind told BBC’s Today Programme: ‘You have to get the detail right or could cause serious problems for your own government.’
Jack Straw said Mr Johnson was causing harm. ‘If you are Foreign Secretary, rule number one is ‘Careless talk costs lives’.’
Johnson’s cabinet colleague Liam Fox said Johnson had made a ‘slip of the tongue’ but insisted the Iranian authorities were solely to blame for prolonging the mum of one’s ordeal.
He said: ‘I don’t believe that it is a serious gaffe… I think people in the Iranian regime, which is a very brutal regime, are using this as an excuse to hold a UK citizen in the most tenuous of circumstances.’
The couple’s local MP added his voice for Johnson to resign.
Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead & Kilburn, told the Evening Standard: ‘Boris has been given a long period now in which to retract his wrong statement. Now he has to resign. Nazanin has been on hunger strike, she is suicidal. You cannot bumble your way through a case like this.’
In a statement The Foreign Office said Mr Johnson now accepted he ‘could have been clearer’ with his comments to the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The statement added that the Iranian Foreign Minister Mr Zarif told the foreign secretary that the developments in the case over the weekend ‘were unrelated’ to Mr Johnson’s remarks.