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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson of Britain in London last week. He has been accused by supporters of a British woman of Iranian descent held in Iran of misspeaking about her activities there, inadvertently creating new risks for her. Credit Stefan Rousseau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Britain’s foreign secretary faced accusations on Monday of having made a misleading and careless statement about a British citizen of Iranian descent imprisoned in Iran that could prolong her ordeal there.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, spoke in Parliament last month about Iran’s imprisonment of the woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. He described her conviction for sedition as a mockery of justice but also said she had been “simply teaching people journalism.”

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employer, family and local parliamentary representative said Mr. Johnson’s statement about the activities of Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran not only were untrue but also had created new risks for her.

Days after Mr. Johnson’s comments, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to a new court hearing, where Mr. Johnson’s words were cited as evidence that she had been engaged in “propaganda against the regime.”

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose plight in Iran has become something of a cause in Britain, is serving a five-year prison term on charges of seeking to overthrow the government. Her supporters have called the charges absurd.

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On Monday, Monique Villa, chief executive officer of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employer, appealed to Mr. Johnson to correct his statement, adding that the accusation “can only worsen her sentence.”

“She is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, where she is project manager in my Media Development team,” Ms. Villa said.

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran on vacation, showing her daughter Gabriella to her grandparents, when she was arrested at the Tehran airport on April 3, 2016. Gabriella was placed in the care of her grandparents, but her British passport was confiscated, complicating any effort by her father, Richard Ratcliffe, also a British citizen, to retrieve her from Iran.

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Credit Free Nazanin Campaign, via Associated Press

“Like Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, I see a direct correlation between this statement by Boris Johnson, who rightly condemned the treatment that Nazanin has received in Iran, and the fact that Nazanin was brought once again into Court on Saturday 4 November and accused of ‘spreading propaganda against the regime,’ ” Ms. Villa said.

Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, the Tehran prosecutor general, said at a news conference in Tehran on Oct. 17 that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had worked for the BBC’s Persian Service. The government in Tehran views the BBC with particular hostility.

In a statement, the BBC said Monday that “Nazanin has never worked for the BBC Persian Service.”

According to the Fars News Agency’s account of the news conference, Mr. Jafari-Dolatabadi said that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “husband is a British national, and she has the British citizenship and has worked in this country.”

“She used to teach an online journalism course at the Persian section of the BBC, which aimed to recruit and train people for propaganda activities against Iran,” the prosecutor said. “Using anonymous emails, sophisticated and long passwords, saving passwords and encrypting materials and information were the subjects instructed in these courses.”

On Monday, the British Foreign Office issued a statement that did not acknowledge that Mr. Johnson had misspoken but said that his comments had provided “no justifiable basis on which to bring any additional charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.”

“While criticizing the Iranian case against Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Foreign Secretary sought to explain that even the most extreme set of unproven Iranian allegations against her were insufficient reason for her detention and treatment,” the statement said.

Mr. Johnson planned to call his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the statement said, “to raise again his serious concerns about the case and ensure his remarks are not misrepresented.”

This is not the first time that Mr. Johnson has been accused of misspeaking. Last month he was criticized for having said that the Libyan city of Surt, a former stronghold of the Islamic State, could become “the next Dubai” if the authorities could just “clear the dead bodies away.”

Tulip Siddiq, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party who represents Ms. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s constituency in the British Parliament, voiced her anger over Mr. Johnson’s latest comments.

“I’ve repeatedly told Gov and Boris she was on holiday in Iran,” she wrote on Twitter, referring to the British government and Mr. Johnson, adding: “how could he be so careless? This is life or death!”

Continue reading the main story

Britain’s foreign secretary faced accusations on Monday of having made a misleading and careless statement about a British citizen of Iranian descent imprisoned in Iran that could prolong her ordeal there.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, spoke in Parliament last month about Iran’s imprisonment of the woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. He described her conviction for sedition as a mockery of justice but also said she had been “simply teaching people journalism.”

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employer, family and local parliamentary representative said Mr. Johnson’s statement about the activities of Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran not only were untrue but also had created new risks for her.

Days after Mr. Johnson’s comments, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was taken to a new court hearing, where Mr. Johnson’s words were cited as evidence that she had been engaged in “propaganda against the regime.”

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose plight in Iran has become something of a cause in Britain, is serving a five-year prison term on charges of seeking to overthrow the government. Her supporters have called the charges absurd.

On Monday, Monique Villa, chief executive officer of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s employer, appealed to Mr. Johnson to correct his statement, adding that the accusation “can only worsen her sentence.”

“She is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, where she is project manager in my Media Development team,” Ms. Villa said.

Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran on vacation, showing her daughter Gabriella to her grandparents, when she was arrested at the Tehran airport on April 3, 2016. Gabriella was placed in the care of her grandparents, but her British passport was confiscated, complicating any effort by her father, Richard Ratcliffe, also a British citizen, to retrieve her from Iran.

“Like Richard Ratcliffe, her husband, I see a direct correlation between this statement by Boris Johnson, who rightly condemned the treatment that Nazanin has received in Iran, and the fact that Nazanin was brought once again into Court on Saturday 4 November and accused of ‘spreading propaganda against the regime,’ ” Ms. Villa said.

Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, the Tehran prosecutor general, said at a news conference in Tehran on Oct. 17 that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe had worked for the BBC’s Persian Service. The government in Tehran views the BBC with particular hostility.

In a statement, the BBC said Monday that “Nazanin has never worked for the BBC Persian Service.”

According to the Fars News Agency’s account of the news conference, Mr. Jafari-Dolatabadi said that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s “husband is a British national, and she has the British citizenship and has worked in this country.”

“She used to teach an online journalism course at the Persian section of the BBC, which aimed to recruit and train people for propaganda activities against Iran,” the prosecutor said. “Using anonymous emails, sophisticated and long passwords, saving passwords and encrypting materials and information were the subjects instructed in these courses.”

On Monday, the British Foreign Office issued a statement that did not acknowledge that Mr. Johnson had misspoken but said that his comments had provided “no justifiable basis on which to bring any additional charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.”

“While criticizing the Iranian case against Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Foreign Secretary sought to explain that even the most extreme set of unproven Iranian allegations against her were insufficient reason for her detention and treatment,” the statement said.

Mr. Johnson planned to call his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the statement said, “to raise again his serious concerns about the case and ensure his remarks are not misrepresented.”

This is not the first time that Mr. Johnson has been accused of misspeaking. Last month he was criticized for having said that the Libyan city of Surt, a former stronghold of the Islamic State, could become “the next Dubai” if the authorities could just “clear the dead bodies away.”

Tulip Siddiq, a lawmaker for the opposition Labour Party who represents Ms. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s constituency in the British Parliament, voiced her anger over Mr. Johnson’s latest comments.

“I’ve repeatedly told Gov and Boris she was on holiday in Iran,” she wrote on Twitter, referring to the British government and Mr. Johnson, adding: “how could he be so careless? This is life or death!”

Nytimes

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