13 May 2022

Boris Johnson fails to apologise after Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells him she lived in ‘shadow of his words’

13 May 2022

Boris Johnson failed to apologise to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after she described 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.

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.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and daughter Gabriella arriving in Downing Street (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

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.

Asked if the Prime Minister apologised, Mr Ratcliffe responded: “Not specifically.”

The charity worker’s meeting with Mr Johnson was their first since she was finally freed from Tehran, and since he wrongly claimed she had been training journalists at the time of her arrest in 2016.

Ms Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said Mr Johnson “looked quite shocked” when her constituent challenged him.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and family following their meeting with the Prime Minister (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

“I was really proud of Nazanin. She was sitting next to the Prime Minister, and she told him very clearly and categorically that his words had had a big impact on her and that she had lived in the shadow of his words for the best part of four-and-a-half years,” Ms Siddiq said.

“I have to say the Prime Minister looked quite shocked, I think, when she said that, but I was really proud she did say that because she wanted to make it clear to him that she’s happy now, she’s grateful, she appreciates the fact that she is home now, but there was a time when the words had a big impact.”

But Mr Ratcliffe said 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”.

Instead, the family pushed for the Prime Minister to give evidence to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry into the Government’s handling of the case.

“I did mean it when I said, please do try and give evidence. He said he would look at it,” Mr Ratcliffe, who has spent years campaigning for his wife’s release, said.

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