Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells Boris Johnson his mistake 'had big impact' but PM does not apologise

MP Tulip Siddiq and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and daughter Gabriella, meeting Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street on Friday Credit: Twitter/Tulip Siddiq

Boris Johnson failed to apologise to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after she told him of the “massive impact” his false claim had on her six-year detention in Iran, her husband said.

The prime minister was seemingly “shocked” after the British-Iranian dual national told him she had lived for years in the “shadow of his words” during their first meeting since her release.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and husband, Richard Ratcliffe, took their daughter, Gabriella, and constituency MP, Tulip Siddiq, to the discussions in Downing Street on Friday.

The mother was freed in March along with fellow detainee Anoosheh Ashoori after the UK agreed to settle a historic £400 million debt dating to the 1970s.

  • Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard talks about the family's meeting with the prime minister

But Mr Johnson had been accused of lengthening her ordeal when, as foreign secretary in 2017, he wrongly claimed she had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016.

Speaking to reporters in Downing Street, Mr Ratcliffe said his wife challenged the prime minister on “why did it take so long” to secure her release.

She also told him the “massive impact” his comments had on her, even saying the Iranian authorities brought Mr Johnson’s words up during interrogation shortly before her release.

Four days after Mr Johnson’s damaging remarks as foreign secretary, she was summoned before an unscheduled court hearing, where his comments were cited as proof that she was engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

Asked if the prime minister apologised, Mr Ratcliffe responded: “Not explicitly.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe opted to leave answering the media’s questions to her husband and MP while she waited with Gabriella in the street outside No 10.

Mr Ratcliffe said there was not necessarily “closure” for the family after the meeting, as he reiterated his call for Mr Johnson to give evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the handling of his wife's case.

“I did mean it when I said, please do try and give evidence. He said he would look at it,” Mr Ratcliffe said.

“I think he has been a part of our case in different roles, it is important his perspective is shared honestly with parliament.”

However, Mr Ratcliffe said that it was not "an abrasive meeting" and that it was “undeniable” that Mr Johnson was sorry for the impact his mistake had had, having publicly said he was sorry “if I inadvertently caused any further anguish”.

Asked ahead of the meeting if Mr Johnson would be apologising, a No 10 spokesman replied: “I think it is important to remember that it was the Iranian government who were responsible for her unfair detention, and the decision to release her was always in their gift.

“However, I would point back to the prime minister’s words, his answers to questions on this before and he has previously apologised for his comments in 2017.”

Ms Siddiq said the Ratcliffe family are “getting to know each other again”.

“Bear in mind that Gabriella, who is now seven years old, was 18 months old when they separated and she was taken away," Ms Siddiq said.

“And now it’s almost a shyness, that’s what Richard said to me, it’s like getting to know each other again – they are finding out what they are comfortable with, what their dynamics are.

“It’s a rebuilding of a family and one thing that Nazanin keeps on saying is that she won’t get back those years that she lost.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe still has “nightmares”, Ms Siddiq said, adding that there is “still some time to go” before the family’s lives return to normal.

“Nazanin said to me she still has nightmares, she’s still dealing with the aftermath of being in solitary confinement because she’s claustrophobic, that the people there were very scary and constantly threatened her family so I don’t think those are things you get over immediately.

“But seeing them and seeing how resilient they are, it makes me think you know they are going to be fine in the long run but there’s still some time to go before then.”

The family also raised the cases of people in Iranian prisons who remain in the same conditions that Zaghari-Ratcliffe endured, the MP said.

"Nazanin kept making the point that people who went in quite soon around the time that she went in, they are not home yet and she is home and she feels very guilty about that."