British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he will seek to meet jailed Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe during a planned trip to Iran in coming weeks.
“If it is possible in the course of the trip to Tehran to meet her constituent then of course I will seek to do that,” Johnson said in parliament in reply to a question from Tulip Siddiq, the lawmaker for the area where Zaghari-Ratcliffe lived.
“I cannot stand before the House today and guarantee that that will be possible but I will certainly do my best to ensure that it is so,” he added.
Johnson earlier called his Iranian counterpart in a bid to clarify remarks which left him accused of jeopardising the case of the woman.
He faced calls to quit after telling a parliamentary committee last week that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran when she was arrested for alleged sedition last year - a comment her employer and her family insisted he correct.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, appeared in court on Saturday to face further charges, first brought in early October, that carry a 16-year jail term.
The Iranian judiciary issued an online article on Sunday saying Johnson’s comments proved that she was not on holiday, as her family said, backing the justification for new charges.
In the call with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif, Johnson said the suggestion that his remarks “shed new light” on the case was “absolutely not true” as it was clear she had been on holiday, a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Johnson had been seeking to make the point that “he condemned the Iranian view that training journalists was a crime, not that he believed Iranian allegations that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been engaged in such activity”, the spokesman said.
Johnson said his remarks “could form no justifiable basis for further action in this case” and called for her release on humanitarian grounds.
Zarif said the weekend developments were not related to Johnson’s remarks and he remained committed to working together to resolve the case on humanitarian grounds, the Foreign Office spokesman said.
Johnson did not apologise but he accepts his remarks “could have been clearer”, the spokesman added.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said that Johnson “made a factual error”.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), the media organisation’s philanthropic arm, was arrested at Tehran airport on April 3 last year after visiting family.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards accused her of having taken part in the “sedition movement” of protests that followed the disputed 2009 re-election of then hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
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