Family of British woman jailed in Iran plea to Boris as Iran TV calls his comments 'unintended admission of guilt'

Credit: PA

The family of a British woman jailed in Iran have demanded further action from Boris Johnson, after his comments sparked fears she could have her five-year sentence doubled.

Iran's state TV broadcast a report claiming that the Foreign Secretary's comments in Parliament amounted to an "unintended admission" of her guilt.

The Channel 2 report said that Mr Johnson's suggestion that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was "training journalists" when arrested in Iran last year had "dealt a blow" to the efforts of campaigners and UK authorities to support her position that she was in fact on holiday.

Following Mr Johnson's comments last week, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing at which she was threatened with the doubling of her five-year jail sentence.

Mr Johnson has admitted that his comments "could have been clearer", and told MPs on Tuesday that the UK Government "has no doubt that she was on holiday" in Iran.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's employers, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, issued a statement in response to the Iranian TV reports, reiterating that she had never taken part in the training of journalists.

The foundation's chief executive Monique Villa said: "Nazanin is not a human rights activist with Thomson Reuters Foundation. She is a project manager in our media development team.

"Nazanin has never been a journalist, hence could never have trained journalists."

Ms Villa confirmed that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had visited Lebanon, Georgia and Morocco as part of her work running the logistics of workshops for local journalists.

"None of these workshops were attended by Iranian journalists. Nazanin didn't have any role in delivering the trainings and had no say in evaluating the work produced by the journalists trained," she said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard said that Mr Johnson's actions so far "do not look sufficient".

In a statement, the Free Nazanin Campaign said: "The UK Government should not be in denial about the gravity of the situation or the abuse Nazanin is suffering at the hands of the Iranian authorities. The Government's first duty - both governments' first duty - is to protect its citizens."

Mr Ratcliffe urged the Foreign Secretary to ensure that a Farsi translation of Mr Johnson's "clarification" should be issued to the Iranian media and posted on the website of Britain's embassy in Tehran.

He called on Mr Johnson to ask Mr Zarif to acknowledge in public that his wife was in Iran on holiday with her daughter Gabriella at the time of her arrest.

Nazanin's parents, who live in Iran, watched the evening news "in growing horror" and were "in a state of shock and disbelief" as a result of the broadcast, he said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe herself is likely to have seen the broadcast with fellow inmates in prison and "her reaction to seeing herself publicly framed by the Iranian authorities is as yet unknown", he added.

Wednesday's TV broadcast said that the British media and authorities had spent the last year trying to emphasise Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's innocence "until last week, the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson utters a sentence that proves costly for the government of this country".

It added: "Just this one sentence from the Foreign Secretary was enough to deal a blow to all the attempts of the British media and authorities in the past few months...

"It appears that the statement of Boris Johnson was an antidote to all the statements of various media and UK authorities who had been claiming in the past year-and-a-half that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had come to Iran for humanitarian reasons."

But Mr Ratcliffe said the Foreign Office's treatment of his wife's plight as a consular case amounted to "a downplaying of her situation that goes beyond personal choice of words - it is a matter of policy".