Boris Johnson to visit Iran after prisoner gaffe

Foreign Secretary’s blunder could cost British woman another five years in jail

Boris Johnson and Theresa May at cabinet
(Image credit: Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty Images)

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson plans to visit Iran following a serious blunder in which he misspoke about the circumstances of a British-Iranian aid worker imprisoned there - a mistake that could see her five-year sentence doubled.

Johnson called Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, today to say that he intends to visit Iran before the end of the year and hopes to see jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Sky News reports.

The charity worker - arrested in April 2016 during a holiday to Iran to see her parents with her then 18-month-old daughter - is in prison for allegedly plotting to topple the government in Tehran, says the BBC, although the official charges have never been made public.

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Johnson told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee last week that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “training journalists” during her trip. His comments were denied by her family and her employer, according to the BBC.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, was told over the weekend that she would be tried for “spreading propaganda against the regime” and that her sentence could be doubled if she is found guilty, her husband says.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox dismissed Johnson’s comment as a “slip of the tongue”. However, fellow Conservative MP Anna Soubry called the Foreign Secretary’s mistake “appalling”, tweeting that “in ‘normal’ times Boris Johnson would have been sacked long ago”.

Labour called his conduct “unacceptable”, and urged Theresa May to fire him.

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